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Yo and Yo again!

February 18, 2017

 

Yup, that same old yoyo-ing weight issue…again! ::sigh::

I get it. The average human being is not free to neglect and ignore their food choices and expect to stay at a healthy weight. And I get it…I’m no different.

I knew when I had my weight-loss surgery that it was not a cure. I knew that – unlike what many people think – I still would not be free to eat whatever I want for the rest of my life. I knew that the surgery was only a reset and management tool. Which is exactly why the good weight loss surgery doctors employ nutritional guides and recommend psychological support.

I also knew that some re-gain was almost a given. But I also understand, as a life coach, and an educated person, that the re-gain situation was in my control. I could choose to regain or not.

Yes, choose.

I know using this word is a contentious thing in the weight loss community. Some consider it a form of fat-shaming. It’s a thin line between expecting someone to take responsibility for their actions and blaming them for their health issues.

We now know obesity is a complicated disease. We know that in our society we have a ton (no pun intended) of help to become obese. We know there are genetic, psychological and medical factors that come into play. No one is an island. No one becomes obese overnight. And very few North Americans will go their whole life never having experienced some unwanted weight gain. There’s no shame in being human.

But wait…if we say we don’t choose to be obese, we are saying we have no power over it. And the first step in any 12 step problem is to admit we are powerless over our problem, isn’t it?

Yes, but, almost paradoxically, this is exactly how we learn to gain power over it. We admit we don’t presently have the ability or tools. And by doing so we allow the tools into our life, and learn to embrace the power.

When I say, I choose to gain weight, it gives me the power to say, I can also choose not to gain.

In my case, the regain range is 5lbs. I yo-yo within a range that is acceptable from a weight loss success standard. I chose that goal, and it might sound like a miniscule amount, but I’m such a pixie-sized woman that I notice those 5lbs without the scale.

I wish I didn’t have to weigh myself almost everyday. I wish my weight stayed stable. I wish I didn’t have to struggle with food decisions every single day! However, I’m not fortunate that way. Perhaps if I allowed myself to gain 10 or 15lbs my body would settle there. There’s so much we don’t understand yet about set points and metabolism. But, no one can say, and I’m not willing to risk the experiment. I live in terror of being obese again. I probably always will. And it’s likely one of the biggest factors in keeping my weight in control 4 years after surgery.

What we do know now is that sugar and refined carbs are drugs that destroy our bodies and change our brains. Playing with sugar is pretty much like playing with alcohol or drugs. It’s a fine line between the occasional indulgence and addiction.

So, here’s the hard truth, like it or not: I can’t indulge my food addictions and expect to effortlessly remain a healthy stable weight. Period.

If I want to indulge, then I must monitor its effect on my body constantly. That’s the adult thing to do. And that’s what I should learn to live with…because it’s unlikely I’ll never eat popcorn or savour a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha ever again.

::pulling up my big girl non-plus-sized panties::

I shall yo-yo…and I shall survive.

 

Patterns and Textures

February 13, 2017

I recently attended a college photography course on Fine Art photography. It was fascinating to learn about the history of photography and its relationship to other art forms. It also made me aware of several photographers I’d yet to discover.

Perhaps more importantly, the course helped me break free of my usual style and pushed me to explore texture and abstract photography. Breaking the usual photographic rules allowed me to dig deeper into expressing, as opposed to just capturing.

This was one such result:

hidden-worlds-sm-7

And another…

stonework-sm-2

As a nature photographer I’m naturally inspired by bark, stone, and plants…so there’s plenty of inspiration for future photo shoots. Stay tuned!

Observations On Being Natural

November 23, 2016

Earlier today, I was watching an interview where beautiful soul Alicia Keys talked about her decision to go make-up free. This talented, powerful woman made such an eloquent case for going natural; really putting into words how I feel about my own life-long tendency to forgo make-up.

I don’t consider myself beautiful in the standard sense, and I’m sure someone with a flair for make-up could transform me into a more elegant, finished version of myself. But, I do consider myself attractive enough, and my husband thinks I have the greatest smile. I’m good with that.

But here’s what makes me angry – and sad – when I see young women painted up with the fake eyelashes and heavy war paint I call that Jersey Shore s#*t.

When these young women face the mirror they aren’t seeing themselves. They’re seeing society’s version of who they should be. They’re focused on the imagined flaws artfully inserted into their brains by marketing, by subtle campaigns, and not-so-subtle magazines.

How are these young ladies supposed to reach for their dreams when they don’t even know what their dreams are? When they don’t even know who they are. They are being kept too busy by false standards of style and trendiness purposefully set just beyond their reach.

How can they know who they are when that truth is painted away in favour of the celebrity of the moment?

How can anyone reach their individual goals when their hands are full of mascara and lipstick tubes?

How can you put time and energy into attaining the life that will truly give you meaning when it takes two hours to get ready to face the world? When you’re handicapped by high heels, padded bras, and broom-like false eyelashes that weigh a ton? How can you strive forward with confidence when you’re lightheaded because you’re fasting to lose that little tummy only you really notice?

Without make-up when I look in the mirror I see my mother’s face, my sisters’s faces. I see where I came from. I see where I belong. I know who I am.

When I wear a sweater dress I see my rounded tummy, my generous hips. I see that I am a woman.

I see that I am Me. No one else. And I can’t hide from the fact that I’m no longer 21. and I’m glad.

There is a joy in aging. A moment where you realize that all the mental energy that goes into trying to feel accepted was a horrible, never-ending maze that took up far too much time and mental energy.

That is the moment when the wrinkles and the sags become silly and endearing, and the weight of the search for perfection leaves you.

You don’t have to wait for that revelation.

If wearing make-up makes you happy, if it’s an artistic touch you enjoy and not a mask to hide behind, then have fun. But don’t forget to put away the fake eyelashes, stop fasting, and focus on doing what makes you happy and healthy.

Do it now.

Remember: The world needs your dreams, your power, your uniqueness.

Society 6: Hello

November 20, 2016

As a photographer, part of the joy of making great photos is sharing them. Images that sit on a computer – occasionally popping up as a screeensaver – feel unused and dusty.

Society 6 is a great online store where artists can upload their art and allow people to use them in fun and imaginitive ways. Not just a canvas print to hang on your wall but a pillow accent, or  mug to brighten your morning.

So, here’s my store, loaded with soothing beautiful images for a yoga studio or a meditation space, or a canvas pillow combo to brighten up that newly renovated bedroom.

I’ll be adding more as time goes one, so check in and feel free to send me feedback!

https://society6.com/cindiaugustine

Physiology and Accountability

November 3, 2016

In my last few posts I’ve been covering my efforts to reduce both my sugar and my salt intake. I covered the issue of motivation, and how hard it is to keep up your resolve once you know what you need to do.

One of my suggestions was that it helped to have someone to support you with accountability.

Of course, third party accountability only works as long as we are completely honest with our support person. They can’t – and shouldn’t – be monitoring every bite you take, nor giving you the third degree every time you eat.

So how do they know how well you’re doing, unless you tell them, and how does that work when we often fool ourselves?

Interesting enough I stumbled on an undeniable red flag for me personally; in other words, a nonverbal sign that I’ve been over-indulging in those substances.

Let’s start with sugar:

Recently I was fighting a losing battle with eczema on my hands. No amount of cream, or use of gloves to avoid detergents, really did much in the way of clearing it up. However, a few weeks of the sugar cleanse and suddenly my hands were clear. I didn’t make the connection until I started to allow sugar to sneak itself back into my diet and…you guessed it…back comes the eczema!

I imagine this is something a lot of people with eczema know, but it passed me by in my research. Perhaps I didn’t see what I didn’t want to see.

Now, all my husband has to do is to hold my hand, and the truth is undeniably apparent. As frustrating as the eczema is, I am trying to see it as a positive thing, an external motivator to keep the sugar in my diet as low as I can.

As for salt, I discovered a year or so ago that a high salt diet has an annoying effect on my bladder! Too much salt and suddenly I’m a frequent visitor to the powder room. I can’t get through an eight hour sleep without getting up at least twice to go to the bathroom. And, as many ladies know, we can often suffer from bladder urgency. Nothing like having to stop whatever you’re doing because your bladder is in charge!

Given both these ‘tells’ it’s easy enough for me – and my wonderful, supportive hubby – to keep me honest and in control of my weight.

As much as I want to curse these particular side-effects of two such addictive substances, they do act as both reminder and cautionary yellow light. Maybe not quite a blessing, but not the curse I tend to consider it to be.

Back to putting down that dang salted caramel chocolate bar…::sigh::

Backslide

September 28, 2016

One of the realities of being human is that motivation is something we must continually feed if we are to maintain healthy habits.

Yes, I slipped a little off the sugar cleanse and have been yo-yoing between a 2 lbs range for the last 2 weeks or so.

This isn’t tragic, it’s not a 10 lb gain, or a return to the sugar-addiction behaviours that will herald a return to obesity, but it is frustrating and clearly demonstrates how firmly these sugar-laden foods have us in their grip. Just another reminder of how important it is to be careful how we allow children access to these substances in the first place.

In my case I was able to keep sweets under control, but once again allowed carbs – that hidden sugar – to creep back up. Not being a cook, and working an afternoon shift that means I come home with no desire to cook, makes it tough to immerse myself in the healthy cooking behaviours that would truly be my salvation.

And yes, that’s an excuse I have no right to put forward. I know it’s perfectly possible for me to cook healthy meals on my time off, freeze portions, and conveniently eat well.

So, my question to myself has to be “Why?”. Why am I not preparing these meals in advance?

My only answer today is lack of the right motivation.

So, I continue to watch documentaries and read books. I continue to visit the weight loss surgery forums. These things are helpful in keeping the bad behaviours in check. I’ve maintained my weight loss for several years now, and I must stand proud of that. It’s not a small accomplishment. The vast majority of obese people who lose weight gain it back…and more.

I believe that the longer I maintain this loss the better my chances of keeping my obesity in remission.

And that is clearly what people hate to face about obesity. It is a terminal disease with no cure. There is only remission.

I refuse to let this disease get hold again. I will fight it for as long as I live.

Perhaps I can find some motivation there. Making the fight easier by developing the healthy cooking habits I need.

‘Food’ for thought!

Taking Control

September 1, 2016

The last tip I shared on overcoming hypereating was behavioral. Training yourself to physically avoid cues and triggers will ease the stress of dealing with them on a constant basis and there’s nothing wrong with trying to make it easier on yourself. Life is hard enough!

Today I’m going to address another cognitive strategy that Dr. Kessler outlines in his book. This is a great long-term strategy that has the power to change your way of perceiving those foods that are contributing to unhealthy eating and obesity.

In the other posts we talked about the cycle of cue-urge-reward-habit. We are cued by something, perhaps visual, emotional, or olfactory. Our brains respond with a strong, pervasive, insistent urge to eat that food. We pop that doughnut into our mouths and are temporarily rewarded by its taste, sensation, smell, memories…By doing so we strengthen the habit, and make it stronger. Now the next time we are cued that urge will be even stronger.

Each time we give in we strengthen the behaviour and lessen our chances of resisting.

That’s a very important point.

So how do we break the cycle?

In my first post about strategies I talked about how we have just a few seconds in that cycle where we have the strongest chance of breaking it. By responding immediately to the cue and following through on it with all the reasons we don’t want to – and won’t – eat that food. I’ve been using this strategy a lot and it’s a powerful tool.

The next cognitive strategy builds on that one. Not only can we rationalize ourselves into refusing to obey the trigger we can learn to change our response to the trigger altogether!

As long as we accept that food as a reward our brains will always drive us towards it. That’s how the brain works, that’s how we survive. But what if that food was not a reward at all? Then the cycle is broken, and we are no longer conditioned to overeat!

Now, food is a primary reinforcer, meaning we are hard-wired to be rewarded by food in order to aid in our survival.  But we can choose what foods we are rewarded by. And we can introduce other rewards as well.

This is done by taking control of your thoughts around those foods.

Here’s an example: I really want that ice-cream…BUT, I am not going to have it, because I don’t want diabetes. Ice-cream is not a reward, because it’s bad for me, and makes me unhappy with myself. I feel awful after I eat the ice-cream. I’m going to have some grapes instead. They’re refreshing, and my body will appreciate the antioxidants. I’ll increase my chances of living longer and having fewer diseases!

By changing how we see foods high in sugar, fat and salt, identifying them as disgusting and harmful, we lessen their power as a reward. By learning to truly see those foods as enemies, by reminding ourselves of the horrible consequences those foods can have, we can help our brains recognize that these foods are not rewards, at all.

Then we can choose the rewards we want to have dominate our lives.

We can imagine the money we once put into fast food going into yoga classes, clothes we enjoy wearing, or massages. We can see ourselves putting money once spent on “treats” towards a cruise, or tuition for school.

It takes a little time but the more we work on breaking the cycle the weaker the cycle gets. Eventually the triggers lessen and the urge becomes something we can dismiss with relative ease. We see ourselves as one of those people we used to admire. The ones who just seem blissfully unaware of the cake and cookies on the staff-room table.

This strategy is meant to be a long-term cognitive shift that will serve us well, as long as we are diligent and don’t start seeing those foods as friendly, rewarding foods again. It doesn’t mean we can never have ice-cream, but given time we can do so with control.

And isn’t that what we wanted all along?