The Second Secret to Weight Loss

Leftovers from a meal I had Monday night at 8pm. With the addition of more veggies, it served as my first meal of the day on Tuesday, 16 hours later.

Eat when you are hungry. Stop when you are (80%) full.

I have had an interesting couple of weeks learning my hunger cues. And before I say any more, let me also say that I realise what a privilege that is. Not all of us can choose to go hungry for several hours just to explore what it feels like. I am very fortunate.

The first thing I noticed, however, is that I had a lot of fear around being hungry. Specifically, I was anxious that I would get hungry –really hungry– and not be able to get to food. The fear was so intense, I wondered if perhaps I had actually experienced just that as a child.

And, of course, it happened almost right away. Sort of.

Thursday morning, I woke up at 8am and decided to delay breakfast until I was actually hungry. I had my physiotherapy appointment at 11:15. Sure enough, at about 10:30, I felt serious rumblings. But there was absolutely no time to prepare and eat anything, especially if I was going to follow the secret to weight loss #1, so I stuck a Larabar in my purse and off I went.

So, I’m sitting on a bench like bed, back propped up with pillows, my ankle wrapped in a hot towel and it’s happily buzzing away with “stim.” I’m reading my book…and there they are. Hunger pangs. They are gathering strength and frequency, distracting me from my novel. On a scale of 1 to 10, my hunger growled it was about an 8 or 9. Fortunately, my purse wasn’t too far away. I really wanted to eat a proper meal, so I just nibbled the Larabar until I felt about a 4 or 5. I ate about 1/2 of it. That was at about 11:30am.

That held me for a surprisingly long time.–of what I thought, then, was a surprisingly long time.  I didn’t eat “breakfast” until 1:30pm or so. I was sure to eat my scrambled eggs with wilted spinach and melted feta slowly and mindfully.

I didn’t realise how good I had it last week.

On the weekend,  I decided I would truly wait for hunger to strike before I ate. My longest period so far is 19 hours. But I’ve had at least three other episodes of waiting at least 12 hours for hunger to kick in. Needless to say, I have not eaten much in the past few days!

Waiting to eat sucks. I hadn’t realised how much I love to eat. I mean, I knew I comforted and calmed myself with food. Food stepped into that job full-time eight years ago when I stopped relying on cigarettes. That’s emotional eating of one kind.  But another is eating simply for the pleasure of chewing and tasting the food in front of you. Yes, I am a foodie. I bet that’s no surprise to anyone! But it means that my meals are important to me. And I miss my meals! A little snack of mindless candy munching at 4pm means I am still waiting for my hunger to cue me to have my supper at 8:30pm. Everyone else ate hours ago.

Eating –when, where, how much– was something I took for granted. I planned suppers to include enough left overs for lunches the next day. I always made sure I had a healthy snack (or two) with me at work. I even pre-prepared some mason jar salads for my lunches on the weekend. The fridge is bursting with food.

Now, I have no idea when I will eat, how much, what it will be,  and it could be anywhere– in my car, at physio, at work, or at home. It’s unsettling. And I’m freezing.


  1. I am so blessed I get to figure this out. Not eating is my choice, thank God.
  2. I am losing weight. The scales are dropping. Cold and fatigue are “normal” side effects of burning fat for fuel.
  3. I can create more of an appetite with exercise–or maybe just being outside in the fresh air is what does it. But I have noticed that I was hungry after a walk in the brisk cold air. (Of course, it was five hours after the last meal, so maybe that’s normal.) But who knows what’s normal, anymore?



What the Doctor Said

Out on my walk, today. Minus 13 (with windchill, minus 20 something.) Celsius.

Not surprising.

But disappointing.

For the first time in a long time….so long I don’t quite remember how long, I went to a family doctor for my annual check up. Well, first I had to find a GP taking new patients…fortunately, that wasn’t too hard. Then, I went to see her and she ordered x-rays, and blood work and my mammogram and so on.

The news is this: the x-rays showed osteoporosis in both hips. I am pre-diabetic and my bad cholesterol (LDL) –as well as my non HDL cholesterol– is high. Unfortunately, my HDL is quite low.

Here’s the breakdown.

  • Fasting glucose: 6.6 mmol/L (Impaired is 6.1-6.9 mmol/L. Diabetic is >6.9 mmol/L)
  • I forgot to ask for my A1C numbers.
  • HDL Cholesterol (the “good” kind) 1.54 mmol/L
  • LDL Cholesterol (the “bad”) 3.79 mmol/L (o.o – 3.4 mmol/L is OK.)
  • Non HDL Cholesterol 4.93 mmol/L. (4.9-5.6 mmol/L is considered high)
  • Triglyceride 2.50 mmol/L (normal is o.0 – 1.70 mmol/L)
  • My blood pressure was within normal range which is not normal for me. Usually my blood pressure is low.

Dr. Osman said I had to bring those numbers down in three months or she would put me on medication. She booked a consult with a dietitian for me and told me to stay away from the “white stuff” and lose some weight. She didn’t tell me how much weight to lose.

So, I’ve been doing  bit of research.

Apparently, losing 7% of my body weight will help those numbers go down.

Losing 7 to 10 percent of your body weight (18 to 25 pounds for a 250-pound person) can significantly improve health conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high blood cholesterol. From The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

So, to do that in three months, I will have to lose about 6 pounds a month.

As well, I need to increase the amount of fiber I eat. (The goal, apparently is 25 grams per day.)  Did you know that soluble fiber will glom onto and absorb cholesterol hanging around your intestines waiting to get into your bloodstream–and carry it right out of your body?! That’s amazing.

What does a day of 25 g of fiber look like? I’ll have to do some research on that.

Refined carbs not only wreck havoc on my blood glucose: but apparently any glucose not shuttled into my cells converts to LDL. So, I’ll really have to lay off the Lay’s! And the cinnamon buns and the brownies and the cookies and ice cream. But not the dark chocolate. Hooray for small mercies.

And I need to go back to taking fish oil. The Omega 3 fats will raise HDL and lower my LDL. Omega 3 will also help my cells be more receptive to insulin…so not as much glucose will run rampant in my blood. And, of course, my bones will thank me. (I also need more vitamin D, calcium and magnesium, too.)

Now that I am menopausal, my hips could also use more foods rich is phytoestrogens, like miso paste and soy.

So, while I was a bit depressed and scared by the news from my doctor last week, I am feeling a bit better. I feel capable of putting together an action plan that will help me get those numbers down and avoid medication.

The Secret to Weight Loss


Target time for the meal was 20:00. I completed the meal in 27:21

Eat slowly.

That’s it.

I am utterly amazed at how full I feel after a meal. And for me, that feeling lasts several hours. I have not changed what I am eating…my meals are the same as ever, yet in just one week, I’ve seen movement on the scale. Every day, my weight is a little bit lower than the day before.

It’s good for you in many ways. Leo Babauta, of Zen Habits, has a great little blog post on it, too.

Here’s how I’m doing it:

I got an app called “Eat Slowly” for my ipad. (It’s free). It lets me take a picture of my meal…and I can either use the pre-set time or set my own. When I start the count down, not only does it count down the seconds…but it shows me a plate gradually getting emptier. It diminishes by 1/8ths. It’s great. I can look at my plate…and look at the ipad and judge instantly whether I am going too quickly or not. I love being able to track my pace at a glance. It helps especially at the beginning of my meal when I am hungry and most likely to revert to my shoveling habits.

How I slow down:

  1. I make sure the food in my mouth is completely gone before I start on the next bite.
  2. I put down my fork or my spoon between bites. I’ve noticed that sometimes, if I have a piece of bread (say, with a bowl of soup or stew) I have to go a get a plate to put it on…normally, I guess, I just held it in my hand the entire meal.) This one is going to take some practice.
  3. The best way to accomplish both 1) and 2) above is to take a sip of water in between each bite.
  4. This is bad–and may come to bite me when it is time to level up this habit, but so far I have not stopped my habit of eating in front of something–a book or the computer or the TV. I use it as another distraction device.

Notice something I am not doing: I am not chewing and chewing and chewing. Taking 20-30-40 chews or whatever before I swallow would lead to madness. Besides, I’d probably lose count!

Food does get cold. So, I take less food. I can always go back for more. (There’s a pause button on the app.)

Sometimes, I find I have had “enough” of something, even though I love it, (like a bowl of bean and bacon soup) and I’m still sort of hungry…so I have a salad. Last week, Chris prepared all the ingredients for a salad–and I just go to the fridge, open all the containers and throw everything into a bowl with a bit of dressing. Presto chango: instant salad.

I remember I used to eat this way as a child. People used to complain about how long it took me to eat something. It feels right to relearn how to do this.

Have you ever tried eating more slowly–or are you already eating slowly?

The January Report

me and my gimpy foot (in need of a pedicure, too!)

January is The Month of Cake. I call it that because both my husband and I have our birthdays close to one another in the second week. It was right about that time that I took a lovely little week long course in mindful eating. I highly recommend it even though it kind of ruined chocolate cake for me. No. It showed me that I prefer dense cakes to light and airy ones. Yeah. That’s it. Though truly, the light and airy cake really felt like nothing in my mouth.

But this month was so much more than simply The Month of Cake. It has been an exhilarating month. I walked into the month upset and worried about spending a ton of money on the Precision Nutrition coaching program. I am limping out of it absolutely convinced it is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, so far.

First, the philosophy of the program can be summed up in three sentences:

Start wherever you are

Use whatever you have

Do whatever you can.

And this means you start your process of change with baby steps. Teeny tiny baby steps. My “work out”–if, really, you can call it that–is ten minutes of meditation and a five minute walk three times a week. “Five minutes! What’s five minutes? Too easy!” I thought. “I’m paying all this money to be told to walk?”

But here’s the thing. When you are starting a habit, you have to start with the smallest bit–because it is not the thing–it’s not the walking, really, that’s important here. It’s the consistency. It’s establishing the pattern of thinking about going out for my walk every other day. It’s the making room for it in my day. (And yesterday, finding five minutes to walk was a challenge. But I met it.) It’s what the practice does to your head that’s important. And, obviously, exactly where I need to start–because my head just wasn’t there. And that’s why it has to be a five minute walk. It has to be small enough to get out of the way of the important mental stuff that has to happen for a habit to form. I’ve “known” all about this stuff about habits for along time…but this is the first time I get it.

As well, this month, after being without for over four years, I have finally found and met a family doctor. I have gone for all the tests and x-rays. My follow up appointment is tomorrow. For the first time in my life, I have a female family Doctor. I am quite excited about it.

I re-twisted my ankle this month. I’d originally twisted it back on Oct 4th. That’s when I filled out the incident report at work. I procrastinated treatment. I don’t know why. I kept hoping it would go away, I guess. It is one of the reasons I stopped exercising in December. (That should have been my first clue to get help, don’t you think?) So, in the spirit of self-care, I found a physiotherapist and she’s helping me. I’m taped up like crazy. Waking at work, unfortunately, in steel toed boots with inflexible soles on concrete floors is nearly impossible.

As a result of wanting to give my foot a bit of a rest, I started aquafit. In the middle of the month, I  bought myself a bathing suit and promised myself I’d go once a week. I’ve made it twice so far.

One of the absolute best things this month was reading The Secret Life of Fat, by Sylvia Tara. The book made me understand just how difficult it is for a woman like me, in my early fifties (hormones!) with my history of losses and gains (efficient fat!), with my genetic background, (Irish/Scots/Welsh/British = thrifty fat genes!), and who has a mother who struggled with weight all her life (a fat building gut biome!) to lose weight. I am thrilled with the six pounds I lost this month. Six whole pounds!

Perhaps I need to rename it The Month of New Beginnings. But that would be cheesy.


The Best Book I’ll Read All Year


Did you know there are actually three kinds of fat?

And that it has many ways to fight you to stick around in its neutral palette of brown, beige and white?

It’s really quite fascinating. I bought The Secret Life of Fat by Sylvia Tara at Indigo late Sunday afternoon. I finished it late Tuesday night. (And, I went to work, twice!)

There’s a lot of information in this book: but the most compelling aspect of the book is its tone. She treats fat as a worthy adversary. Like any wily enemy (and, oh has fat its many tricksy and sneaky ways) it needs to be known and reckoned with and fought with all the tools she can discover.

This book has brought together all the different bits of things I’ve read here and there about fat and the gut biome and hormones and epigenetics and intermittent fasting and why, exactly why, exercise is so helpful.

Did you know your fat can make more of itself. Yes. Your fat is responsible for creating more fat. Horrifying. Fat can be protective. Did you know it is tied to your immune system? In fact, in obese individuals, up to 50% of  their fat consists of immune cells. Fat can also build its own blood supply. Crazy.

In a particularly fascinating chapter, Dr. Tara talks about how a virus…yes a virus…may very possibly cause individuals to become fat –and remain fat in spite of great effort.

Each chapter begins with an anecdote about a person and then delves into the research. It makes for an exciting read.

My only quibble with the book is that it is quite light on mental strategies to overcome the fat-driven biological diabolical urge to eat once you lose a particular amount of weight. From her account of her own struggle, it seems she used a combination of distraction techniques and white knuckling it.

Here’s a link to the podcast with Dr. Tara that whetted my appetite for the book.

Good stuff.


The Five Levels of Why

This showed up in a facebook feed. Obviously, the caption is only partially correct. Genetics (and luck, good or bad) can also play a significant role in how our futures unfold.


This was my homework from PN today. Ask a “why” question and then dig down deep. Ask “why?” four more times until you get to the root reason, the one that is in line with your values.

Level 1: Why are you doing PN Coaching?

Because I want help to change my life to be one that supports a healthy and permanent 100 pound weight loss.

Level 2: Why is that reason for doing PN Coaching important to you?

  1. There are so many changes that need to happen in order to make that weight loss goal a reality that I need help figuring out which ones are those core fundamental changes: whether in my thoughts and beliefs or my habits and behaviours. I also want support for making those changes.
  2. I want to lose 100 pounds because it will be easier to move and, I imagine, I will have less pain. (Though obviously there’s no guarantee. I have a great-aunt, as thin as a rail who suffers from arthritis. My grandmother, also trim and active all her life suffered from debilitating osteoporosis in her spine. Ironically, my own mother, who battled her weight all her life became thin just as her COPD worsened. Her teeth, stomach and legs also now cause tremendous problems.)

Level 3: And why is that important?

  1. It’s important to be efficient with my efforts to change, i.e., making sure I make those essential and important changes because I don’t have forever. I am getting old. It’s important for me to have a coach because a coach 1) believes I can change, 2) believes it is important for me to change 3) keeps me on track with making those changes. She will believe the effort is worthwhile even when I don’t.
  2. Why is it important to have less pain? Well obviously, it makes life more enjoyable. But as I’ve mentioned before, my independence could be at stake here.

Level 4: And what kind of difference will that make?

  1. Having this kind of support can be the difference between success and failure for me.
  2. My independence and personal freedom to live my life as I see fit is of paramount importance to me.

Level 5: And why does that matter?

And so here we are: success matters because a body one hundred pounds slimmer will allow me to continue to be the fiercely independent person I really am.


Physical Fitness Goals

In the end, what we want, what we all want is to

be healthy, pain-free and physically capable.

Love that. Here is what that looks like for me.


I want to be able to get down and then back up off the floor without support. I can just sort of do it, by getting into a lunge position, but it is tough. As well, I recently re-twisted my ankle getting up off the floor. I must be more capable of daily movement than that!

Climbing the stairs is also a challenge requiring both hands to support me. I want to head to bed carrying up my book and a water with ease.

Work involves a great deal of walking in steel toed books (inflexible soles) on a concrete floor. After four hours I am usually limping and exhausted. I want to be able to go to work for an eight hour shift and then come home and do a work out. I  need to improve my stamina significantly.

I need to improve my strength. After ten weeks in yoga this fall, I had to quit. I hated doing that. But once the class picked up pace from “beginner” to “normal,” I just could not keep up–especially with all the rearranging of the props I need to do to be supported with each move. I began to injure myself every class, so I stopped. But I’d like to be able to go back in six months or so.

The pain in my hips is sending back echoes. I am beginning to feel it again, ever so slightly. Fortunately, it’s not interfering with my sleep like it did last summer. Even though a doctor diagnosed arthritis, I think it was because after being at my job for hours, I would come home and sit at the computer for hours and hours and not move. At all. Once I started moving more (and losing a bit of weight) the pain subsided.


I feel old. I don’t want to live in fear of injury and pain. (I don’t yet, but If this keeps up, I will.) I’d like to ride a bike to work. (about 5 miles.) I’d like to be able to go on hikes and climb mountains. (We live five hours from Jasper National Park.) I don’t want to go to a nursing home, but live in my own home right up to the last second.

I love my home…I hate institutions. I love living by myself..or with my immediate family…I haven’t lived with other people since second year undergrad. The very idea of having to choose to live in a place based on criteria that doesn’t include aesthetics fills me with horror. That’s not hyperbole. My great grandmother lived to 102. She stayed in her own home (with someone who came in to help her every day) until the last six months of her life. I want that, too, without the last six months bit.

The PN Coaching year-long class began today. My first action was to find and make an appointment with a family doctor.

Whys and Whatnots, Part 2b

I think this blogger could teach me how to ride a bike!

The first Introductory workshop at Precision Nutitrition poses four questions for me to answer. They are:

  1. What is it I really want to achieve in going through P.N. Coaching? Answer here.
  2. Why haven’t you achieved your goals already? What’s blocking you? First Attempt at an answer here.
  3. What awesome things might happen to you if you did make progress?
  4. What specific things will show you you’re on track?


I want to take another quick stab at answering the second question. It has been bothering me a lot.

I still think the crux of the answer is, as Tony Robbins tells it, wrapped up in my self-identity. But that’s still a pretty big suitcase to unpack.

Lately, I came across this article by Nerd Fitness which was also thought provoking.

So, let’s start with the basics: the “these are just excuses and I know it but I still say them to myself” bullsh*t: But until I drag out these thoughts into the light of day, I can’t deal with them. So, here we are.

There are many activities I enjoy, but I don’t do them for one reason or another.

cycling–no bicycle, and man, does that seat hurt! I promise myself I will get a nice bike with a good seat when I am under 200 pounds. Then, I can bike to work.

swimming and water aerobics–I don’t have a bathing suit that fits, don’t want to spend money on a suit anyway, don’t have time to attend classes, don’t have the money.

any class at a fitness facility–I don’t have the money (even though my work place will cover off 20% of any pass I purchase at a city facility).

walking–it’s too cold. It’s too hot. It’s boring.

hiking–I’d have to drive to a good trail…and what’s the point of that? Besides, I don’t have time.

skiing (downhill) I’m too old!

skiing (cross country) I don’t have equipment, I am not fit enough.

Aerobics in the living room with a video. My husband, or son, or daughter are in there and I don’t want to disturb them. I’m getting bored with the same old, same old. My ankle hurts.

Body weight exercises– I am a wimp! And, see “other people live here, too” excuse, above.

Yoga–I want to be stronger and more fit before I start up again. It hurt so much. And it is expensive.

“Deeper” reasons/thoughts which keep me stuck:

I am a wuss. I don’t like pain. I don’t like exerting effort.

Nobody cares. This is a good thing, really. It means my family loves me just as I am and respects my autonomy. But it also means there’s nobody’s love or pride to earn (and as a child of divorce, that motivates me) except my  own…and that doesn’t count. (This is also one of the reasons I think coaching will be helpful to me as I will want to “please the coach.” Wanting to please the teacher got me a long, long way through school!)

My job is so physically demanding it wipes me right out. Ironically, this could be re-written as a reason to get into shape, like so: My job is so physically demanding I need to be physically fit to cope with it.

I can go like gangbusters for a while: and then the bottom falls out. I get bored, I lose touch with the pain and discomfort that motivated me and I begin to slack off. First the exercise goes–and then that “eat like a horse” switch flips and in no time I am eating out of control and gaining weight rapidly. I actually want to go through this phase–or get to the cusp of the switch flipping so I can work through this terrifying force of nature with my coach.

I am scared of change, generally. I am scared of this change specifically because I don’t know what is going to happen with my relationships with my family and my husband.

I am impatient, as any reader of any of my blogs knows. I lack resilience. I give up when the going gets tough–or even slows down! I need constant feedback things are going in the right direction.

I use food to handle my emotions. In fact, right now, there’s a tremendous urge to get up and make a pan of brownies and just eat them all by myself. Right now.

I can’t figure out when to exercise. I live with other people. The best time  –for them– is in the morning, I suppose. The best time –for work– is before I go. (It is 100% guaranteed I’m always too tired afterwards, even when it is just a short shift.) The best time –for me–is–and always has been– about 3 to 4 pm. Just before supper. I have lots of energy–and lot of adrenaline built up from the day I just love to work off.

So, in short, I have a few challenges in picking out what activities to do, I am unsure how to make exercise a habit, I have some mental health issues, inadequate skills for coping with uncomfortable emotions, lack of support and a demanding job.

But. as the nerd fitness article made clear, those are all issues someone has faced…and overcome.


Things I’ve Learned Eating Mindfully:



Get your copy here from Summer Tomato.


and some of my beliefs about food…..

  1. I refuse to call out any food as good or bad.
  2. I refuse to feel shame for any food I eat.
  3. I love food.
  4. I especially love food that is calorie dense.(Fat + sugar….yum!)
  5. But I don’t like store bought cake…even expensive cake. The texture is too light…it’s like eating air.
  6. I  love food with complex flavours and textures.
  7. I like soft, dense food like oatmeal more than soft, thin foods like applesauce.
  8. Squash, sweet potato and yams are really sweet. So is curry.
  9. Biggest surprise of all? I like a touch of heat.
  10.  I eat too much at meals.
    1.  I am afraid too much time will pass before I will be able to have my next meal and I will be hungry
    2. I like to feel full. But, since I’ve been doing the Mindful Eating exercises, I’ve noticed I am often over-full. Uncomfortably full.
  11. I eat because it is time to eat.
  12. I hate feeling hungry. I hate waiting to feel hungry. But actually,  feeling twinges of hunger aren’t all THAT bad—I dislike it all out of proportion to the actual experience. I don’t know what’s up with that.


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