Un-supersize me. Difficulty: mental health
November 25, 2014 11:11 PM   Subscribe

With anxiety, chronic depression and ADHD (I'm being treated for all), I struggle sometimes to get out of bed and go to work, let alone exercising and making healthy food (I know, I know, 30 minutes daily exercise is the single biggest thing for health). Where do I start? It seems huge and impossible. I have some spare cash to throw at this, but I’m reluctant to buy expensive clothes racks that take up space in my tiny flat and accuse me silently. If you have any ideas/tips/links for an old (50ish) seriously unmotivated introvert with a BMI of 40 and the attention span of a lizard, that’d be good. If you see a (solvable) obstacle that I'm obviously missing, I'd appreciate your insight.

I know obvious advice like choose a sport you like, but poor eyesight makes sport out of the question (any balls that I have ever hit have been accidental), and I’m reliant on public transport because I can’t drive because of it. So, of course there’s walking (chafing more like, plus skin cancer capital of the world – I have something due to be cut out of my back and yay, 100 F today), and cycling (hope I don’t get run over – the occasional abuse from the arseholes in the cars is only a minor put-off). Apparently some people go to the gym where everyone points and laughs (I know they don’t, but yuck, I don’t want to make their breakfast come up) at the fatty who does not know how to use the equipment, and then is far too anxious to go again. And even if I did overcome the social anxiety, there’s the repetitiveness of it, which – yes, I know, it sounds like an excuse like the rest of this post (my life), but my brain will honestly seriously wander off and I follow it.

Aerobics classes? Each of my breasts are bigger than most people’s heads and despite AskMe info on the topic, I have never found a bra that came anywhere close to containing the painful and embarrassing bounce. How about swimming? Same problem with swimsuits containing and supporting (I’ve worn them with bra underneath, t-shirt on top), body image, and so on plus excessive buoyancy – also, at my best, I can do 3 laps which is apparently worth nothing calorie-wise. Exercise with a friend? Um. Yes, I do have friends, but I’m so flaky that I’m hesitant to commit, because I’ll let them down. You’d think that’d be enough to keep me exercising with them, but nope – on a bad day, I stay in bed, and don’t go to work. Keeping a promise to exercise with a friend isn’t going to get me out. In fact, I flake on most social invitations.

Now, food. Sure, I like healthy stuff, like a nice bit of protein and a salad, and I often buy vegetables that end up liquefying in the fridge. Part of that problem has been my kitchen (shared with lazy room-mate – you think I’ve got the gumption to demand and force them to tidy up?Ha!) which is currently clean, but unlikely to remain that way. Part of the problem is I postpone preparing food (because I don’t enjoy cooking, and I’m indecisive about what to make) until I’m very hungry, so I usually pop a frozen (diet) meal in the microwave, or have toast or pasta if there aren’t any. I don't do snacks. I don't drink soda/soft-drink.

Most of my too many calories comes from drinking too much alcohol. It’s for self-medicating lonely evenings. I only had one beer last night (woo!) and came home and sat watching reality TV (which interests me not at all but there seemed to be nothing else on free to air) and boring my acquaintances on Facebook while regretting my decision to be sober for the evening (an unusual occurrence), and then lay in bed awake until 3.30am reading the internet on my Ipad (sometimes I read books, but my concentration/cognitive level was about good enough to switch between solitaire, and reddit comments). I have been to a number of AA groups (I have found them to be such lovely people) but every single group I went to explicitly said that if you think you’re an atheist, you’re not going to make it, and really, you’re not an atheist, because that’s stupid. The other thing I found difficult was the model of support – there never seemed to be a time to say “Hey, what do I do at night-time, when I’ve used my brain and my eyes all day working on screens and stuff? I can’t read, want to stop thinking, don’t want to go out because I’ll drink. What do I do when I'm so sad or lonely that I feel like I can't bear it? What do I do when the suicide ideation and fighting has worn me out, and getting quietly plastered at home until I can go to sleep seems the only way I can get relief?

I also tend to over-engineer things (some people call this perfectionism, but it's never perfect) – not start until all the planets are aligned (for example, an impossibly tight, rigorous exercise schedule, spreadsheet, pedometer, nude photos of my revolting body for inspiration – blank background, spot on floor marked for retaking progress shots), and I am perfectly placed to take advantage of it (which is never).

Harden the fuck up? I’ve been telling myself that for 30 odd years. It hasn’t had much impact, except to increase my self-loathing. Just do it. Yep. If that worked, I'd be doing something right now.

Located in major urban area, Queensland, Australia. Single. Flexible work - I can take some time off (I often do) if I need to. Have never considered weight loss surgery because I can't justify it to myself. Gym within 1500m, pool 2500m (half hour walk). Surf beaches 30 minutes public transport.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (41 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
This might seem harsh, so stop reading if you're feeling fragile. Keep reading if you're feeling determined.

You do not need a weight loss or fitness strategy, you need Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. You know exactly what you have to do in order to lose weight, which is eat less and exercise more, but your entire post is full of rationalisations to yourself as to why you can't do those things.

You are a valuable human being. You are capable, right now, of taking charge of your life and this situation. However, you should switch your focus away from the "how" (swimming? cycling? vegetables?). Your roommate, boobs, and eyesight are not what is holding you back. Your mental perspective on these things are what is holding you back. Instead, work on the repairing the broken thought processes that are leading you to be stuck (low self esteem, negative self-talk).

Be kind to yourself. If I were in your situation, I would spend any/all cash I had to throw at this on a CBT therapist, and, once I felt I was making progress (in a few weeks/months), on membership of a CrossFit gym. You might find also r/loseit helpful eventually.
posted by bimbam at 11:51 PM on November 25, 2014 [27 favorites]

It sounds like you have become used to letting things happen to you instead of you happening to things, if you know what I mean. Waiting for the situation to be just perfect is a form of procrastination and allows for you to give up responsibility, in a way.

Think much smaller. Think of what you can do in a span of five minutes, of ten minutes, of half-an-hour -- whatever you feel comfortable with. Can you walk for a really short period of time without getting tired or stopping? Can you do that today, right now?

When that is done, you're off the hook for that day, you've done your duty. Then tomorrow, you do it again. Maybe you do it for 6 minutes, maybe for 10 minutes. Maybe you did stop today, so tomorrow you say, 'OK, now I won't stop. Or at least, I'll go 4 minutes without stopping instead of 2.' Just a little bit more than what you accomplished today. And so on -- and you keep going.

If in a week, you find yourself forgetting to do it or you can't be arsed, or whatever, you don't beat yourself up about it. You lounge around and doss -- you allow yourself a day off, nothing wrong with that -- so long as the next day, you *do* get back to your schedule. Maybe you repeat that last day's activity instead of stretching it, but as soon as you do get back on the schedule, you do go back to stretching yourself a bit farther every time.

It's no different to quitting smoking or other bad habits - little steps, and you take periodic lapses as just that, not full-blown crises. You don't feel guilty about it -- because you don't allow it to do so; you get back onto your schedule.

If you find that walking isn't working for you, try something else, but again, start small and go up increments. The point is, you need physical activity. Over time, it will also help you with feeling better, and most likely, will help you to control your appetites and mood too.

If that other activity doesn't work, try something else -- but do it immediately. Don't wait, because if you do, you'll find a way to talk yourself out of it. Don't do this.

Try not to think of what other people might be thinking, when you're at the gym or whatever. You're doing this for you, not for them, and they're not relevant to the process.

All I'm suggesting is a mindset. It's not everything you need -- you're a much better judge of what comprises that than I could ever be -- but start small, and keep going. If you do, you will figure out the rest. And all the mindset is, is just advice to go outside for a walk.

Believe me, it helps. Another way to think of the above is as another version of Seinfeld's 'Chain Method'. Have a look at it online, you'll be stunned at the stupidity of it -- but he swears by it.

I do wish you the very best of luck, you deserve to feel better about yourself.
posted by northtwilight at 11:54 PM on November 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

The things I've had the best luck with are walking and water aerobics.
For walking:
When you are sitting in front of your TV, or whatever, put on your exercise clothes, shoes included and that way you are ready when you get even a half an urge to get out there and walk. You don't have to worry about getting up and finding your shoes etc. You may spend several days sitting around in tights and shoes before you actually walk but eventually you will go out and walk. Wear those Lycra shorts or tights to keep your thighs from rubbing. Even if you don't feel at all like walking, make the deal that you have to get dressed for it even if you don't actually go.
Water aerobics is easy on your joints and you don't get all sweaty. Wear a T-shirt over your suit. You can use the same technique to get yourself out of the house as with walking. OK, I just have to put on the suit and some clothes and shoes. OK now I just have to go sit in the car. Well, while I'm here I'll just drive over there and see how I feel once I'm there. Well now that I'm here I might as well go in.
Even if you can't do everything others are doing just keep going, march in place if you have to, just keep moving and keep going.
Good luck.
posted by BoscosMom at 11:57 PM on November 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Join a gym that has group exercise classes. Ideally, Les Mills classes. They are not all bouncy/jumpy/aerobic-y, by a long shot: do classes like Body Pump, which are low-impact. Stand at the back, if it helps, but trust me: NOBODY cares. Prepay for this gym. Attend classes at least 3 x per week. Classes are good because once they've started, you can't walk out. (Well, you can, but it's less conspicuous to just stay). If possible, this gym should have a sauna/steam room/spa; that is your post-workout reward.

Order 6 weeks of Lite 'n' Easy meal delivery to kick-start things.

Load your iPod full of great, high-BPM music. On your non-gym days, catch transport to the beach and walk quickly one way for half an hour, then turn and walk back. Or just do it round your neighbourhood.

Make a commitment to yourself. Say 'I will do Lite 'n' Easy for 6 weeks, and I will go to gym classes 3 x per week and walk a minimum of 2 other times per week. After 6 weeks , if I don't want to do it anymore, I'll stop.'

I bet you will feel and look so much better already, you won't want to stop.
posted by Salamander at 12:14 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

2nding therapy/meds check. CBT really might be for you; it's good for situations where you know what you want but you...just...can't....make...yourself...do the thing.

Here's my practical solutions:

Podcasts or audiobooks and walking late at night/early in the morning are great if you don't want to deal with people, the sun, or wear exercise clothes. You can take a walk in your regular clothes-- so long as your shoes are sturdy. If your neighborhood is very unsafe, maybe try water aerobics instead. If you have or can borrow a dog, that makes night walking safer (and walking in general more fun.) Early in the morning is usually safer than at night (drunks and weirdos are in their wee beds by then.) The audiobooks keep you from being bored and give you a non-exercise reason for leaving the house (it helps me to fool myself into thinking that all I'm planning is fun music time, not my Prescribed Daily Exercise.)

Don't keep food in the house that you don't want to eat. It sounds stupid, but if you really don't want to eat some item, don't buy it or bring it in the house. You can choose to make an exception more easily than you can choose not to eat the easy fun snacks.

Keeping veg fresh: buy frozen. It's not ideal, but it's easy to reheat and keeps in the freezer for like a year. If you want fresh, only buy the quantity you can realistically eat in two to three days, where "realistic" is defined as "I have a plan for every item in this basket including what day and time and format I will eat it." You can always get more if you run out.

Have you tried layering sports bras? Sometimes if you put one on top of the other one backwards, that'll hold it all down.

You're not shooting for perfect, you're shooting for different. I believe in you and I trust that you will make good choices; you are already asking Internet strangers for advice, and that's actually kind of a big step! Good luck; I'm proud of you for asking for help.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:16 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh darling.

You've used some pretty harsh words to describe yourself in this post. Let me add some positive ones: you clearly care a great deal about other people, you're articulate, and you're smart — you know what needs to be done.

Our Aussie culture of "harden the fuck up" can be rough when you're stuck, which is why, I'm guessing, you've had trouble finding a support group that sticks. Have you looked into individual therapy, or a welcoming non-AA support group? Just a group of people to talk to, set goals with, and celebrate your victories.

My greatest mood-booster has also been my weight-loss secret: walking. The sun is very harsh this time of year, but a nice early-morning walk gets your day started on an active note, and you can listen to podcasts or audiobooks, good music, or just let your thoughts wander. Pretty soon you'll start to recognise neighbours who also like an early-morning walk, and you'll smile and nod at each other. It's an incredible way to build health, community and self-esteem.

Please feel free to MeMail me. I've struggled with similar issues in the past.
posted by third word on a random page at 12:21 AM on November 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

I understand that you are being glib, and you probably have a great, albeit self-depricating, sense of humor, but I think care of your body needs to begin with kindness to yourself. Some of your self-descriptions are so very unkind that it hurts my heart. You are worthy of self-care, but I'm not sure if you will be successful until you cut yourself some slack.

As far as practical tips go, here in the US they have videos like "Walk off the Pounds" which are basically very low impact, indoor walking routines. They get good reviews on Amazon, and all you need is a DVD player, a decent pair of shoes, and a good sports bra. Once you have some success with these programs, you can start walking outside in the early AM or PM when the sun isn't quite so strong. Of course, you should talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

But I think the first step is kindness (even if you don't quite believe you are worthy of it).
posted by girl flaneur at 12:44 AM on November 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

Seconding water aerobics. Low impact, mostly old and/or heavy people, always kind people. And break the rest of your problem into little sustainable changes, and ignore your impulse to all or nothing. So just one veg snack a day, or an additional piece of fruit, and don't be sarcastic when you note you had a one-beer night. Be kind to yourself.
posted by gingerest at 12:56 AM on November 26, 2014

Thirding water aerobics. I don't even like sports but I like aquarobics. At first it was bearable, which was a good start; now, after six classes or so, I'm already starting to actively enjoy it.
Some reasons why:
- You're in the water. You know for a fact that it's not even possible to look at much of your body: it's hidden.
- You're in the water so you don't feel sweaty and overheated.
- You don't easily injure yourself or get sore.
- At an aquarobics class, there will always be people older or heavier than you. And no one cares.

You're great at inventing reasons why you can't change your situation. Maybe you can take that energy and skill and use it to push yourself into trying out just one aquarobics class.

Good luck! You deserve to feel better.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:13 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

With regard to exercise, I think that it might be a good idea to work around your constraints for now, and use incentives outside the exercise itself to keep you engaged. Once you start to see results and recondition your body, you may experience fewer barriers, and feel better about participating in the kinds of activities that may interest you.

So I'm for DVDs. (Worked for me to start with, when I dreaded gyms and bathing suits and teenaged idiots in cars. Once I dropped a size and felt better [and stronger], I did find my way to the gym.) Walking is ideal in that it's probably the safest thing you could do (keeping joints in mind), and there's obviously no learning curve. Leslie Sansone has a set of walking videos that you could do at home in your pyjamas, no prep or outfits required, no UV rays to worry about. You can buy chafing gels for comfort.

To make walking at home interesting, you could play music you like while the dvd's on, or hook into an online motivational group so that you're accountable to others in some way. I believe Metafilter's health month does that, and uses targets? SparkPeople does that too, in a structured way, I believe (warning - LOTS of social incentive bits on that site, may work for you, though), and MyFitnessPal offers lots of ad-hoc community support in its forums. Those are calorie counting sites, but you can just start with the fitness side if you like. I think the community side is very important - there are many people who've dealt with the issues you describe, and they can offer both practical and motivational help. If numbers work for you, you could get a pedometer app.

I think if you can get through a few weeks of exercise, you might find yourself more motivated to deal with food.

I can't vouch for any, as it's not been something I personally have had to deal with, but I know there are a few sites online for atheists who need support with alcohol issues. (I think if you google those terms, they'll come up.) They may be able to point you to offline resources.

Ach on preview girlflaneur already mentioned leslie sansone, missed that, sorry!
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:37 AM on November 26, 2014

So what if three laps is nothing? It might be five next time. Or ten. It's about what it does to your body. The yoga class I did three weeks ago fucking slammed me and I had sore muscles for a few days because I worked the hell out of those muscles. The same routine for someone else would do very little. Other people took breaks. What exercise does for your body is the important bit.

I've had success with yoga and weight-lifting, with a side of gall-bladder removal making over-eating (or large amounts of fat) agonising. I didn't do a personal trainer, I just did yoga at the uni gym and then weights with youtube as a guide (I do squats, bench presses and just added overhead presses and deadlifts). And with weights once/twice a week and yoga once a week, I started getting people asking if I'd lost weight (in reality I'd put on 5kg). My back pain lessened. I lost a band size which sucked for boob wrangling (12H to 10HH sized me out of my beloved Panache sports bras but I can jam myself into them so I still wear them). I do the occasional round of swimming and aqua-aerobics as well.

Friends of mine love aqua aerobics and I know it had a similar effect on the shape of my body when I did it. I don't like the ephemera of swimming - having to shower and change and all that - but aqua aerobics was great for me when I started exercising. Low impact, I wasn't worried about hurting myself, and it's mostly old and/or overweight ladies. And doing it in a t-shirt or bra+togs is fine.

Radical acceptance of my body helped as well. Even though I am no longer technically plus size, I pretty much only follow plus size blogs, and fashion sites. We're inculturated with a really skewed vision of women's bodies and exercise. Everybody sweats and makes stupid faces and wobbles and creases and all of that, unless you're doing it for show or you're in a photo. So I counter the rest of the stupid world with women I know, and actual real women (as opposed to photoshopped unreality), and a devotion to me, not them. I'm in this to get tank, not skinny, so I have very clear goals and I focus on them, not the extraneous people.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:57 AM on November 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

So, is there anything you actually like? I don't mean in the context of healthy living or whatever, I mean, in your whole existence, is there anything that pleases you?

I know from experience that when the depression is so heavily upon me, it feels like there's nothing good in the world and nearly everything I've previously claimed to care for becomes soured or pointless. But even at my most suicidal there have been small things that I can enjoy ephemerally, at least. Petting a purring cat. Going to a farmer's market. Some particular bits of media, some songs. It varies, but my point is that your question, so full of defeat, doesn't mention a single thing that you actually enjoy.

Other than alcohol, which is off the table for obvious reasons, what do you like? If someone else had to design a rewards system for you, what would they pick? Soft sheets? Mini movie marathon? A hug? Rainbow star stickers?

I don't want you to think that I'm suggesting something so trite as setting goals and rewarding yourself for achieving them. That's crap when you're as low as I can get sometimes. Instead I think that you need to deliberately do things that make you happy, even if it doesn't last, all the time. At least once a day, aim for a momentary joy.

Sadness saps energy so efficiently, it's scary. Consciously combating that can be the push you need to get the help you clearly need and want. It can be enough to make you feel able to vocalize yourself in person, and it can be enough to get you a good night's rest, because you're thinking about the momentary thing that pleased you that day, instead of the cyclical negative thoughts.

All the best to you.
posted by Mizu at 2:02 AM on November 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Everyone's already got you going with the self care aspect regarding kindness to yourself. Being an asshole to yourself just makes it easier to not do things that benefit you, cos who wants to help an asshole? It's completely possible to begrudge onesself.

Regarding taking horrible pictures of yourself as motivation. Don't do that, don't be unkind to yourself. Your poor auld body has had to take second place to the work you've been doing with your mental health. Take as nice pics as you can of yourself. You will be *as* shocked by the difference five or ten kilos will make regardless if you take kind or unkind pics. And don't go thinking about how you need to lose 40 kilos or whatever, you don't, you need to lose 5. Then possibly 5 more, easier kilos. After that, see what you want to do next.

Start as little as you can too. What is the absolute tiniest amount you can bring yourself to do. What is the lowest possible barrier? For me it's a five minute stretching routine, on the kitchen floor, in my knickers (so I don't have to think about sportswear etc). I do it with Sworkit, a nice little app, and I skip any exerices I don't like. I put in big pauses to allow me time to reposition myself between the exercises and frankly the main exercise element is getting up and down off the floor a couple of times. Protip: you will stick to the floor if you have no clothes on.

Frankly though, as everyone has said, it's not the activity that's the problem. I have a terrible time doing those five minutes, even knowing that when I did it for five minutes a time last year, I was then able after a week or two to do it for fifteen minutes at a time, and lost 5 kilos and felt great. I try to remember how nice that was and try to make myself be kind to myself. At one point when very low, I was advised to to something tiny "just walk twice around the block". I said I would try and walk twice around the kitchen table, but I didn't even manage that. It's not about the activity, it's about dopamine.
posted by Iteki at 2:11 AM on November 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

It sounds like the alcohol is a big part of your intake, and AA didn't work for you. SMART Recovery is a similar guided group that's non-religious, and they have a Brisbane meeting. Otherwise, what about talking to your GP about 6 appointments with a therapist under a mental health care plan?
I also find it difficult to fit in exercise, and lately it's been Youtube beginner pilates and stretching videos.
posted by quercus23 at 2:35 AM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

My advice? Make an appointment with an exercise physiologist. They are university trained to answer all the questions you are asking and to support you as you work to find a form of exercise that is sustainable for you. Be honest with them, too - if they're advising you to exercise in particular ways and you're not actually doing it, then it's their job to help you identify the barriers you're up against and figure out ways around them. Think of them as your partner in learning how to exercise for your health.

The other advice I can offer is that when you are coming from a sedentary lifestyle, the first two to three weeks of any exercise program is going to suck. It doesn't matter whether you run or go to the gym or take up the pogo stick - you will feel tired and sore, you'll struggle for breath and quietly start to wonder if all those people who claim to enjoy exercise are actually insane. Stick at it. It will get easier. You'll get fitter and faster and stronger, but you will never work quite as you will in those first few weeks. I don't say his to discourage you, but rather to warn you so you don't draw unfair conclusions like "all exercise is horrible" or "I'm no good at this" in those early weeks. It will suck because the first few weeks always suck. No way around it. You just need to grit your teeth and do it until it gets easier. And I promise, it will.

The flip side of this is that it almost doesn't matter what you do in the first few weeks - just get your heart rate up in a way that you find at least somewhat tolerable. You can dance the Macarena in your living room or climb the stairs in your office - just do something. Once you build a base level of fitness, then you'll be able to start trying activities with a view to finding forms of exercise that you enjoy enough to actually integrate them into your life. For me, it turned out to be bike commuting, swing dancing and simple free weights at home - and suddenly, getting enough exercise is easy because I actually enjoy doing those things. You'll find the things you enjoy too, and eventually exercise will feel like less of a chore and more of a thing you do to nurture and care for yourself.

Good luck, and congratulations on getting started :)
posted by embrangled at 4:18 AM on November 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Omg, I just noticed that you're Australian - you can get a referral to an exercise physiologist on Medicare using either a mental health care plan or a chronic disease plan - both of which you would be eligible for. Talk to your GP. You could get a whole heap of help with tackling these problems for very little out of pocket cost. For what it's worth, you can also see a dietitian on those plans. Some of these sessions are allocated by the calendar year, too, so you could even book intensive sessions for the rest of 2014 and still have sessions available to use in 2015 if you need them. Again, speak to your GP - but yeah, this is a really good time to take action.
posted by embrangled at 4:26 AM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

You're a talented and honest writer with a distinctive voice and, undergirding your negativity, a sharp wit. May I suggest that you blog about your weight loss/sobriety/mental health journey? That would be a way of expressing feelings, planning activity, tracking progress, and building community all at once, anonymously if you prefer, and you might get a book out of it. Ever read TheSugarMonster?
posted by carmicha at 5:00 AM on November 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Agree with most of the above comments including Carmicha about considering blogging (I'd read your blog!) but I just wanted to address this part of your post:

also, at my best, I can do 3 laps which is apparently worth nothing calorie-wise

At this stage, nothing you do is going to be worth much calorie-wise. In fact, it takes a long time to get to the point where any exercise is really worth much calorie-wise. So go ahead and let go of that right now. Exercise has lots of other benefits besides this--in my case, I feel better mentally and physically and it changes the shape of my body even when I don't lose any weight doing it. But even if you don't feel those benefits--as others have said above, for the first few weeks it might feel like there are no rewards at all--I promise that if you push through, you'll see results, even if they aren't on the scale or even in inches lost.
posted by tiger tiger at 5:22 AM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Heavy drinking is really a vicious cycle when you are overweight and depressed. It makes you more overweight and depressed and it makes it harder to work out and it screws with your metabolism very big time. If you don't want to go to AA or give up drinking completely, then don't! Just try a giving up booze challenge for 30 days. Or do one of those classic moderation plans where you are allowed to drink no more than two nights a week and no two consecutive nights. That thing about being up until 3am suggests you are dependent on alcohol to sleep which also suggests you generally are not getting good enough sleep, which again doesn't make your weight loss any easier. So cut back. The idea that you have to go to AA and buy into their whole philosophy is probably just another perfectionism trip that you don't need right now. Right now you are not contemplating giving it up completely but don't let that stand in the way of getting healthier.

As far as what to do in the evening, you can probably just do whatever you would do while drinking. Watch movies; buy a few box sets of TV shows like Twin Peaks or something and become addicted to those.

An exercise suggestion: if I were you I would definitely go to the beach sometimes and just walk and get in and out of the water. I am average size and wear swim shorts and a rashguard in the ocean. Don't do laps or anything, just bob in the water. In my experience, floating in salt water creates a euphoric state that's better than alcohol.
posted by BibiRose at 5:31 AM on November 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Hang in there my friend. I have the trifecta that you mentioned in your post. It's difficult but not impossible to make progress.

I've recently lost 65 pounds. The first way I did this was via diet. I stopped using large plates, and only used "tea plates" to divvy out food. I ate my normal garbage diet for a month this way. After this went well and I adjusted, I switched over to the Atkins diet and over 6 months lost the weight. Near the end, I found that I had energy and less "body bounce" so I was able to start brisk walks during lunch and eventually graduated to running, completing my first 5k last month.

Set small, short-term goals, and crush them. Then do a little more. Don't punish yourself if you slip, or don't meet a goal. Be proud of what you are doing.

Use your OCD in your favor. I consider it using the Dark Side of the Force for good. I made it a routine that I would walk or run the same route every day. If I couldn't do it, it would set off my spider sense that something was wrong and I'd be more committed the next day or at night.

But my biggest piece of advice is, be kind to yourself. You've done the hardest stuff first, sought treatment for some pretty brutal diseases. This other stuff, it's the prize for having done that.

Weigh yourself only in the mornings.

You will feel such pride as you see your progress. Not only your self-pride, but the pride of your family and friends as they recognize your accomplishments.

Anonymous, if you'd like, memail me. or hit me up on gmail it's just my username at gmail.com.

posted by Draccy at 5:37 AM on November 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm close to your age and have ADHD. I really have found that ADHD and depression and being self-critical run hand in hand. I found that just reading about other adults with these issues beneficial to my own mental health. I've loved poking around ADDitude magazine's website - about ADHD. Also You Mean I'm not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy is a book - written by women but esp. about adult ADHD.

I'd like to say I have found walking to be great exercise and you don't need special stuff and you will feel better even if it's a walk around your block or just on some trail. Do it early in the morning as others have mentioned if that's when it's cooler and when the dickbags are still in bed (I completely understand not wanting to see anyone while exercising). I'm sure you've read the mental health benefits of exercise. Please consider quitting drinking or at least cutting way back. Alcohol and ADHD and depression are not a good mix. I drank much more prior to treating my ADHD and it's common outlet to shut off your active mind.

Best of luck - your post was so sad to me and I wish you all the best.
posted by lasamana at 5:59 AM on November 26, 2014

Anecdata: I lost 70 pounds a couple of years ago, and I have BP type II.

The only things that have ever, ever worked for me were getting off the mood stabilizers/antipsychotics, because they made me gain like nobody's business, and hardcore cutting carbs. I only eat things with sugar, flour, or fruit now for special occasions. It took a year, it sucked a lot, and I'll have to do this forever, but I am 70 pounds lighter than I was (still overweight, granted), and finally normal-ish sized enough to take up running - which helps with the mood, which is currently unmedicated. Avoiding carbs also helps with my mood and energy level. It becomes painfully obvious when I'm travelling and less careful about what I eat.

I do NOT recommend going off meds without the supervision of your head shrinker, and neither does anybody else, but it's worth asking if you can try something a little less weight-affecting. Diet will always be easier to change, and more effective for weight loss, than exercise. Start there.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 6:40 AM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Please look into therapy. As I was reading your post, I so much related to that sense of "Everything is futile, what's the point?" but it doesn't have to be like that. I used to feel like that all the time, and now I don't.

First things first: the drinking. It sounds like you know it, but that's really not doing you any favors. It seems like you're open to AA, so I would encourage you to try shopping around for more meetings. I'm in the US, but I have had the best luck with women's meetings. Also, if you can find meetings at places other than churches (like mental health clinics/hospitals), you might have better luck avoiding the "Submit to a higher power or fail" people.

For what it's worth, I'm a hardcore atheist, but I have still derived benefit from AA, even though I don't do the steps. And no, you don't have to believe in a higher power to get sober. I went from being a hardcore alcoholic who was hospitalized several times, and I've been sober almost 4 years. I did it with therapy and by taking advantage of the social support that I found in AA.

In addition to individual therapy, I would also recommend looking into group therapy, especially geared towards substance abuse. If overeating is an issue, maybe look into something live overeater's anonymous if they have that where you are.

But honestly, the first step to quitting drinking is just getting the alcohol out of the house. And maybe you don't have to quit drinking forever, but it sounds like it's not helping things, and at the very least, it's a good place to start cutting calories.

Also consult with your psych med prescriber. Getting the right treatment for ADHD has made my life so much better. I can actually do things now! Like, on a consistent basis, not just the occasional all night clean house/fix life frenzy that only lasts for a few days. I exercise regularly now, when I almost never did before. My apartment is clean! I make my bed! Please don't settle for things the way they are now.

Now as far as exercising: think small. Walking really is a great place to start. Maybe go out in the early morning or late evening if it's really hot. Definitely use lots of sun screen. For chafing, there are plenty of options out there to minimize that. Plus, getting some fresh air can be really helpful. If you don't want to walk, how about just getting some small hand weights and ankle weights to do some lifting? The key is to start small, and build from there. Commit to 5 minutes a day. We all have to start somewhere.

In terms of food, either minimize the cooking required as much as possible, or do what I do which is cook in bulk and freeze healthy meals so that I always have something on hand. Chili is a great place to start: some ground beef, cans of chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, pinto/kidney beans, and chili powder, salt, cumin, etc and you're good to go. It's easy to make a lot of it, and then you can freeze it in individual portions. There have been lots of askmefi questions about this, so definitely go back and search the archives.

Another option is to keep things like lettuce, grilled chicken, and dressing on hand, so that you always have a healthy meal ready to go. I'm a big fan of greek yogurt with granola or english muffin/whole grain toast with almond butter when I need some fuel but don't want to fuss with a big meal.

Okay, so I've rambled on for awhile, but hopefully some of this is helpful. I promise it doesn't have to be like this. Hang in there!
posted by litera scripta manet at 7:46 AM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have many of the problems you do, mental and physical. I will Nth the CBT, and further reccomend the only exersize I have been able to maintain over time (bmi currently 44, but going down.) I got a foldable, semi-reumbent bike and plunked it down in fromt of the tv. I get to watch my favorite shows while exercising.

Since your space is small, the type of bike to get folds up into the footprint of a chair and has wheels so it can be folded and moved around with relative ease. You don't even need to leave the house, so no oily gym bohunks to bother you. you can start easy and short, and increase time and resistance as you feel able, and bonus, it is non weight bearing exersize and no bouncing boobs.

Also, consider medication changes, working with a good psychiatrist. I went from a 15 year long depression diagnosis, which recurred far too many times even while on medications, to a bipolar II diagnosis that I don't particularly agree with, except now I am much happier. I learned I really don't care what they call it, as long as the meds work.
posted by k8oglyph at 7:56 AM on November 26, 2014

RE exercise: As others have said, doing something small but daily is a huge first step. It may feel pointless to do something like marching in place for 30 seconds, but the point is to get in the habit of exercising. Once you form the habit, it doesn't require the same work/ willpower to do it, and you might be able to use that effort on either more exercise or something else that will improve your life. You don't have to do anything that hurts. You don't have to do anything that makes you breathe heavy or break a sweat. If you do five wall push-ups every morning when you get out of bed, you are doing AWESOME.

If a treadmill that you walk slowly on while watching TV or using a computer would be something you think you could use, give it a try. I personally want to completely collapse and relax when I'm depressed or in relaxation mode, but it might work for you.

RE food: It might be helpful as your first step to start eating meals at regular times so you don't end up super hungry, which makes it harder to make good food choices and can seriously negatively affect your mood too.

RE alcohol: If you're going to drink, you may want to opt for lower calorie drinks than beer, like rum and diet Coke. Some possible ways to spend your evenings if you don't have the energy to cook or do hobbies or housework: wandering around a shopping center, going to a coffeeshop, taking a long bath or shower, going out to a movie if your eyes can handle that, doing simple crossword puzzles or logic games, or talking with friends. Or going to AA... even if it ends up not being a good model for you, there are lovely people there, and it's a way to spend your time that doesn't require you to use your eyes/ body.

I'm sorry you're having such a hard time and hope that some small steps, along with improved mental health care, helps get you to a better place.
posted by metasarah at 8:02 AM on November 26, 2014

If you are at all inclined, seek out a restorative yoga class, retreats, and some ayurvedic consulting. You're stressed, you haven't exercised regularly, you aren't eating well, and alcohol can deplete your body in several ways. You need to restore your health before you can build on it through more conventional methods that will just put more of a strain on your system right now.

You shouldn't be worrying about weight loss per se right now, but about nourishing your body through food that is good for you. This doesn't have to mean salads and smoothies.

I'm by no means not suggesting that medical/pharmacological things won't help you, but regarding food and exercise I really think you'd benefit from restorative work more than aerobics or weight-lifting right now.
posted by lafemma at 8:13 AM on November 26, 2014

I won't belabor the heavy drinking or your need to be kinder to yourself (which I suspect are closely related) -- those upthread have done plenty of that.

I think you could find a sport that you could do and that you could like, though, vision problems be damned! Not every sport involves catching a ball.

Maybe try a month of tai chi classes -- I'd start with those aimed at older folks rather than more traditional classes at first. You'll develop some balance and some confidence in your movement as well as some productive tools to turn to for anxiety and stress relief (not to replace your meds). And if you really enjoy it, you can use the base you've developed for more traditional tai chi classes or other internal Chinese martial arts like Baguazhang, or even to external Chinese martial arts like kung fu! Your vision won't hold you back, and it's a community that's very focused on self-improvement and awareness of both your and others' bodies.

There are a lot of options, including just sticking with your swimming, because if you do, you'll definitely improve! You can do it! Especially if you're keeping your doctors up to date on your troubles and your progress.
posted by hollyholly at 8:30 AM on November 26, 2014

Visit the Keto Reddit forum. Keto isn't for everyone, but it's a way of eating that works for a lot of people when they've had no luck with all the "normal" ways to lose weight, including me. It involves eating very minimal carbs, enough protein to meet requirements, and the rest of your calories in fat. It's a diet that is relatively easy and delicious to stick to. I really can't recommend it any more highly for people who haven't had luck with the traditional low-fat, deprive-yourself style of dieting.
posted by the jam at 8:51 AM on November 26, 2014

Do you have stairs at your house/work/a public building near by? I recommend making it a goal to walk up the stairs for a minute a day. Add an additional minute each week. Your goals, initially, should be so small to you that they seem ridiculous. So if a minute seems like too much, try five seconds. It's very slow to change like this, but slow change sticks around much longer than quick fixes.

As for food, I recommend that instead of reducing or excluding things, you make a goal to add something that you think is really healthy. Like add eating a carrot everyday.

One last thing, try thinking of a motto or a simple response in your head to when you say to yourself that you can't/don't want to. I like to be silly like imagine an old cowboy saying to me, "the dude believes in you"
posted by CMcG at 8:52 AM on November 26, 2014

Also, exercise is important for many reasons, but isn't going to do much for your weight. Diet is the number one factor in weight gain or loss. You have to exercise for an hour to burn the calories in one single donut.
posted by the jam at 8:53 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

People with ADHD are at a higher risk for obesity. I'm convinced that much of that is because many thought processes that surround healthy living aren't compatible with an ADHD brain. (I was fat long before ADHD meds came into my life.)

I read this article not long ago, and wasn't surprised to find that it contained most of the healthy living tactics I've ever used that actually worked. This one is similar. Cutting down on carbohydrates is something that's often recommended both for ADHDers and for weight loss, which is interesting to ponder on its own.

Something that helps me: My exercise-of-choice is solo walking. I walk at night, at around the time you describe. I feel better after I actually do it, but I never remember that. I have to remind myself, mantra-like. Sometimes I put a bottle of water in the fridge and have to remind myself I will love it SO MUCH when I'm done walking. Guilt and self-punishment never worked. Forcing the memories of reward sometimes does.

I hope this helps somehow. Whatever you choose to try, I wish you the very best results.
posted by gnomeloaf at 9:53 AM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Walking at night. Get yourself some podcasts or music and plug yourself in. Leslie Sansone dvds are also good, and you don't have to listen to the after the first go through, just mute her and watch a tv show at the same time. The best bit about boring exercise is that you don't have to pay any attention to it!

Also, do you have a Curves or a Contours near you? They are generally full of older women and can be very welcoming and social.

I find the easiest way to do exercise is to plan it the day before, get everything ready, and then not think about it too much.
posted by kjs4 at 2:30 PM on November 26, 2014

I just want to address the issue of worrying about what people think of you while exercising. Excersing is an incredibly respectable activity. There is nothing funny about an overweight person huffing and puffing down the sidewalk. Everyone who exercises knows how difficult it is, and those who don't aren't in any position to judge because, well, you're exercising and they aren't.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:15 PM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

One other thing - with sleep, have you tried switching from internet to paper books? I ended up at a sleep specialist this year and that was one of the things we tried and it turns out that any backlit screen pushes my sleep time out by an hour or so. Which means checking my phone before bed induces insomnia. But a paper book doesn't have the same effect (or an e-ink reader). Bonus was lots of new books to read! And I sleep better as well.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:44 PM on November 26, 2014

No one is pointing and laughing. Maybe I only speak for (non obese) me, but I silently cheer people like you on.
posted by kestrel251 at 7:12 PM on November 26, 2014

The easiest way to lose weight quickly and reliably is the oldest and the simplest. Count calories. Get a calorie counting app for your phone or computer, calculate an optimal calorie value for yourself, and then stay below that count for two weeks. You will probably lose several pounds right off the bat and that will encourage you to keep going. I lost about 20 pounds with almost no effort when I started counting calories.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:14 PM on November 26, 2014

I can identify with much of what you wrote here. Often when faced with a problem I see only why all of my solutions might fail.

For some reason the thing that turns me around is asking myself: "if I were fully committed to x, what would I do then?" And whatever the answer is, make that my plan.
posted by bunderful at 9:12 PM on November 26, 2014

I’m posting late to this thread because I procrastinated for far too long over whether my contribution is actually answering your question.

I’m a similar age and BMI to you and have also struggled with motivation, but I’m finding success now by approaching things differently and focussing on feeling good about myself right now (pffft to delayed rewards!). For me it isn’t just about health and weight, it’s about my total self-image and attitude every day.

In the past I’d had a lot of failure with pinning things to ‘once I lose some weight’. For example, buying new clothes when I felt slug-like seemed like a waste of money and I would try to set ‘new things’ as a reward for losing weight. It didn’t work. I’d had some successes too and the one common factor about my successes was that I was generally feeling good to start with.

This time my approach has been to feel better about myself FIRST and then finding motivation to go further is a lot easier. I considered booking time with a good image consultant (I didn’t, but in hindsight I would’ve saved myself time and money and mistakes if I’d done that in the first place). Instead I chose a more self-directed path but using the same type of tools that an image consultant would: learn what looks good on me and how to look and feel my best right now with colour analysis, body shape, simple makeup techniques, hair style, teeth whitened, nice pedicure, professionally fitted bra, etc. I’ve never been much of a girly-girl so much of this experience was very new to me. I mostly used blogs, books, video tutorials, in-store consultants and a subscription to a virtual stylist service (MeMail me if you want specifics). This also let me be distracted from all-things-diet-and-exercise by learning some new skills and finding my personal style.

It’s been quite a transformation for me (albeit over about 2 years so far) and I now look and feel so much brighter and more confident - I cannot overstate what a huge difference this has made in my attitude and general motivation every day. I also look healthier and I look like I’ve lost more weight than I really have because I now dress in clothes that flatter my shape and colouring (every day, not just for special occasions). The exercise and weight loss part has been a bit bumpy thanks to chronic illness and the nasty side effects of medications but I know I would’ve taken these setbacks a lot harder and probably given up if I hadn’t already come so far in terms of how I feel about myself.
posted by harmless at 6:21 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've lost 14kg over the past year or so and I am also a person who wants the conditions to be perfect before I even try anything. Here are some things that have helped me.

- I keep a logbook of what I do. It's just an ordinary A6 notebook, and at bedtime every day I spend five minutes writing down everything I ate, my exercise (which is usually just the step count from my fitbit plus whether I have done a yoga class) and anything else I feel like writing about. Without really trying, I've found I've significantly decreased the amount I eat. You could keep track of the amount you drink here too.

- This summary from Useful Science blew my mind - as a non-exercising person I'd always sort of thought that was why I was overweight, so I didn't think too much about what I ate. Practicing thinking about it the other way around has helped me.

- I have a fitbit. For me, the numbers provide really valuable external validation. I also find that I'm okay doing long/arduous walks that would otherwise really annoy me if I know I'll get a really high step count from it. I've also found it helpful to weigh myself daily, as I can see progress.

- For me it's important to remember that anything I do is better than nothing. Eating well and exercising will make me healthier and feel better, regardless of whether I lose weight. Making eating well and moving a bit a matter of self care, rather than self hatred, lowers the stakes considerably. When I eat something I probably shouldn't it's just a stuff-up that one day, I'm not a terrible person and things aren't ruined forever.

- I did a six week Beginner's Yoga class and really liked it. I see people have already recommended yoga, but for me it gets me thinking about my body as being part of me, rather than it just being the jar I carry my brain around in. I go to yoga at least once a week now and I love it, which is amazing after being a lifelong non-sport, non-exercise person. My muscles are getting bigger and I can see improvement in my body in a way that isn't just about it being smaller. Many yoga places have 'yoga for anxiety and depression' type courses that might be a good way in, but regular yoga classes should be fine too.

- I've found a healthyish breakfast and lunch that I like (a banana and two boiled eggs, two tasty salads from a place near my work), and I eat the same things most days. It helps me to have the default option be something healthy. (I know this would drive some people mad though.)

- I feel you on the head-sized boob problems. I'm in an L cup at the moment, and if you're ever in Sydney, More than a Handful are the place to go. I know Big Girls Don't Cry are in Queensland and are supposed to be good but I've never been there myself. Even with sophisticated engineering I still have a fair bit of bounce, but I don't do heaps of jumping up and down.

I'm not a gym person, but I found The Unapologetic Fat Girl Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts pretty empowering. You deserve to be at the gym just as much as any skinny jerks.
posted by escapepod at 12:26 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Queensland government also runs (for free!) the Get Healthy Information and Coaching Service. All you have to do is ring, and you get ten sessions with a qualified health coach who can talk you through your options and keep you on track. Contact details and how to get started here.
posted by escapepod at 12:36 AM on November 28, 2014

Big Girls Don't Cry can be variable in that some of the fitters are nicer than others (but they all know their shit). They carry a very big range including swimwear - I have a bikini top from them that I wear under a rashie or normal togs. And they will order in and post out. There is a similar place down the Gold Coast as well, a sister stire. The opening hours are shit so non - business hours are packed and ridiculous. If you want a stressless trip go midweek, during the afternoon or morning, and plan to spend a few hours there. Take snacks and water as well. It's a trek sometimes but they are worth it. Or rather, new well fitted bras are worth it.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:55 PM on November 28, 2014

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