Health
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Shedding the Winter Weight. Again.

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“Fuck French fries.”

That is what the Upper East Side nutritionist/psychologist said to me after reviewing my weekly nutritional intake, noting that on Wednesday I’d eaten 10 little fried yellow sticks. But it was a business lunch, my client insisted on ordering them, I didn’t want to be rude. You know how it goes.

“It doesn’t matter, fuck French fries.”

Seriously? And I’m paying you how much to tell me this? But there was wisdom in her harshness. She was trying to make me angry. Only it made me angry at her, not French Fries.

Last year I’d decided I needed help losing weight. Not just Weight Watchers/Nutrisystem/Fresh Diet Delivery help — all of which I’ve tried and then some (and chronicled for you last year) — but real, personalized, tell-me-what-the-hell-to-do every-week help.

To find just the right program/person, I created a spreadsheet. It’s the way I approach anything when I have an overwhelming array of options (like finding an apartment or hiring the right person). The spreadsheet detailed each possible option, service, doctor, nutritionist, hospital and group that I wanted to try. I created a 1-5 ranking system based on the qualities I was looking for: Are they nearby? Expensive? Professional? Are they comprehensive? Meaning, do they address body and brain — because for me that’s critical. And finally, do I like them?

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She weighed me on an old-school, analog scale and had unfortunately drastic reactions like, “Oh!” which made me want to punch her.

 

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Based on my spreadsheet, I narrowed my list down to three places with very different approaches: Mount Sinai’s Weight Management Program, the Continuum Center for Health and Healing and an independent nutritionist/psychologist, whom I’ll call Dr. F, recommended to me by another health expert I trusted.

In the meantime, I’d bought myself a FitBit, a corresponding FitBit scale (any time you weigh yourself it immediately uploads the info to your FitBit profile), and started tracking my weight on the Lose It app, which I love. I was throwing the kitchen sink at this issue — money be damned, this was priority number one.

Here’s what I investigated:

1. “Medically Supervised Weight Loss” at Mount Sinai. I’d seen a video of this guy who’d lost 120 pounds via the program and shared his success story on the Today Show. (Testimonials will get you everywhere.) So I hiked up to East 98th Street in Manhattan and attended an informational session about Mount Sinai’s Endocrinology-oriented program. A very pregnant counselor spoke to a room of six or seven people and showed us a power point presentation of three plan choices: self-directed no meal replacements (they advise against this); meal replacements for certain meals only, and only meal replacements.

While my biggest weight loss to date had actually been in the late ’90s from (gasp) Herbalife, a shake/meal replacement pyramid scheme program, I really didn’t want to trick myself with shakes again (I’d gained all that weight back), even though Phase 2 would incorporate real food and healthy eating changes. The monthly fee was $250 in Phase 1, plus $70-100 for the “food.” Could be good, but the setting seemed awfully cold, corporate and clinical for my taste.

2. The Continuum Center. Aesthetically and theoretically, this is like your dream doctor’s office — a fancy one-stop shop for body and mind with everything from primary care to Reiki. Of course it’s very, very busy. I made an appointment with one of the “natural” nutritionists there, who was actually kind of a big girl herself. That put me at ease — maybe you think I’m nuts, I should want Miss Zero Fat — but that’s not realistic. And I’d rather talk to someone who can relate.

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She had a bookshelf filled with colorful, rubber food portion size samples — pasta, veggies and fat. (This entire plate of veggies equals this plate of pasta.) I’m a really visual person, and while I thought I knew everything there was to know about dieting (I was a Diet and Fitness editor at one point, go figure), this review of portion size was awesome.

The nutritionist’s approach was very intellectual and scientific, which I liked. She zoned in on two things: mood and poop. That I needed to watch my stress eating and make sure things were, ahem, flowing properly.

To that end, the nutritionist wrote up a prescription for fiber supplements and Jarrow Formula SAMe supplements to ease my joints and relax my mood. I’m a terrible pill taker so this didn’t thrill me. However, insurance paid for most of this visit. So, hooray.

3. The Nutritionist/Psychologist Combo. Dr. F practices out of her Manhattan home and is silver-haired and costume-jewelry fabulous — and clearly has the kind of clientele that needs to lose 10 lbs for that summer trip to Turks and Caicos. She weighed me on an old-school, analog scale and had unfortunately drastic reactions like, “Oh!” which made me want to punch her.

Sitting together at her messy living room table she took written notes about my eating proclivities. We talked about my torn meniscus and the pain I’d been experiencing, and how losing weight would alleviate some of that pain. That I “need to eat like a 165-lb person.” Otherwise, “You’ll be crippled in your 40s!” she said, attempting to motivate me. When I wrote down sample breakfasts, including the egg and bacon sandwich I had that weekend, she exclaimed, “Well you might as well layer that bacon on your thighs.”

Despite her negative incentives, she did exactly what I wanted her to do which was to write down what I should eat and she was practical. “You’re going to drink. So make it vodka with club soda and a lemon.” She gave me a few basic options for breakfast (yogurt, a sprinkle of Grape Nuts and fruit), lunch (e.g. a big salad with a protein and olive oil) and dinner (a protein like chicken or fish or pork chop and veggies) and snacks (Finn Crisp crackers with cottage cheese — sounds very 1970s diet, but it’s satisfying). Watch-outs included broccoli, and anything with yeast. She was all about real, high-quality food and practical solutions. That I liked.

Believe it or not, of those three options, I ended up seeing Dr. F for several weeks at $150 a pop. Call me a masochist. But I liked her real-food approach and the one-on-one meetings, even if she berated me for the occasional fried faux pas.

All the while I charted my progress on the Lose It app integrated with my FitBit scale, which was frankly, half of my success — no one’s recommendation but my own.

I ended up losing 20 pounds. Did I just bury the lede?

Well, not so fast: Come September or so, I’d decided I could do it on my own, without those expensive weekly meetings. I got cocky.

And then Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas … Welcome back 18 lbs.

It’s depressing. I know that I can do it again, but maybe I need yet another approach? If that’s at all possible?

Or maybe, as Susan has experienced with AA, you just need to work the process and stick to it. Return to the things that work. Don’t give up so fast.

If only I was as picky with my eating as I am about my diet docs.

What do you think? Should I go back to Dr F. or attempt something new?  I’m game. Just let me add it to my spreadsheet.

 

15 Comments

  1. Stacy Morrison

    What you need is this: To decide, REALLY TRULY DECIDE, that you want to be thin/healthy/fit/insert-desired-adjective-here more than you want to eat cheese and bread and wine whenever the fuck you want to.

    …bzzzzt….

    Right? Then find replacements for the cheese/bread/wine, whether it’s jigsaw puzzles, expensive lipsticks, walking around the block, having a pot of fancy tea with Susan, whatever. You don’t need a new diet, friend. YOU NEED NEW REWARDS.

    That will be $450, please. You’re welcome.

  2. I have SO been there–over and over. And, whatever approach you take, Stacy is right that it really is about making this your #1 priority. To drop 35 pounds this summer, I managed to not drink alcohol almost all of the time, at least walk 30 minutes every day (usually more) and stuff myself with vegetables (in creative ways that didn’t involve slathering them with fat). I did this as part of the Nutrisystem diet, which I really took seriously. I stopped eating what everyone else was eating. I suggested getting together with people to walk instead of eat. And when I had to eat, I made sure it was sushi as often as possible. You can do it. Put your heart into it, get off to a strong start, and then keep it up!

    • Margit Detweiler

      Congrats Elena on 35 pounds! That’s amazing.
      And absolutely – it must be a #1 priority. When I lost the 20, I was a little obsessed with it — I think you have to get a little crazy, right? And tracking it seems to help quite a bit.

  3. Lucy says

    The reward system is a great idea. Keep reminders go them around your apartment whether pictures from magazines of stuff you’ll reward yourself with like cool jeans, or a picture of summer, or even motivational phrases, “I will reach my goal,” or “I am strong,” or “I’m so proud of myself!”

      • Margit Detweiler

        Oh and mantras….my main mantra, when I see a piece of food (usually something sweet) that looks decadently delish, I say: “to what end?” And that, believe it or not, usually stops me in my tracks. Essentially, where is this going to get me — and is it really worth it.

  4. Abby Sher

    Super great piece and it helps motivate me, I need to lose about 30 lbs. Let us know what you discover and what you return to!

  5. Adrianna Dufay
    Adrianna Dufay says

    I vote for going back to Dr F.

    I think paying for the weekly meetings helps to put a value on the weight loss. (Even if it’s totally arbitrary or not even really correct.) It does sound expensive, but money is the least of the things you’re already sacrificing to get to the weight or health level you want. It’s all using yourself to trick yourself.

    Now if only I could take my own advice, eh?

  6. A dude chiming in here, hope that’s OK, Margit! ; )

    Have you tried intermittent (18 – 24 hour) fasting? It takes willpower, but really helps me reset my “full” level and become more aware of my relationship to food (plus I find eating nothing at all easier than eating less; there’s also a substantial amount of research evidence for health benefits from fasting in addition to fat loss). It can also be interspersed with other diets (low-carb, “paleo”, or what have you), and I find heightens the effects. These days I generally fast once a week for maintenance, twice if I’ve put on fat for some reason (such as the recent holidays, or food-intensive travel). I also find limiting drinking to two evenings a week helpful. Ultimately it’s all basically just additional caloric limitation, but it works for me. And of course, increasing activity levels will help any diet work much faster!

    Oh, one other thing: I’ve also become a compulsive label reader when shopping. I put back anything with unnecessary sugar or wacky-sounding chemicals (as a result I use a ton of Classico’s basic tomato-and-basil sauce, for example, which has neither). I also assume that all calorie counts are *underestimated*.

  7. Margit Detweiler

    What’s amazing to me David is the level of mathematical CONTROL you exhibit. For me that’s the magic word in losing weight. And tricking myself into having it. The way you’re able to stand back from your own eating habits, observe them and adjust is so admirable and so hard (for me). Its bigger than a diet — the ability to fully control your own actions. It shouldn’t be that hard – why is it??

  8. Jennifer Ha
    jennifer Ha says

    MidgeMadge! If Dr F (poetic justice there, but never mind) works, use Dr F. I also agree with Stacy 100%. Now off to practice what I preach…

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