Thursday, April 9, 2015

Cheating the System

Oddly enough I feel like (and I say this to E quite often) that I am 'cheating the system'.

I feel like I found, and fully take advantage of, my personal weight loss loophole. I know, it sounds weird but hear me out.

Before I transitioned to a plant-based/vegan diet I was following the Weight Watcher program. I was doing really well on it, too. I had lost 60 pounds over 8 months and I was still eating (in moderation) whatever foods I wanted. I had started to become more active and at this point in time I was boxing and doing a million other fitness classes and life was good.

But I still felt crappy. I still was tired all the time. Recovery from any type of activity was long and painful. My energy was quickly depleted each day. I just didn’t feel great and I was at a point in my journey where I really thought I should be feeling differently now that I was closer to 200 than 300 pounds, you know?

Through the process of food journaling I decided, on a whim, to adopt a plant based diet temporarily. I immediately noticed a huge difference in my energy levels, my digestive issues (I no longer have IBS or any other digestion problems), how I slept, and how I recover. So it stuck. And here I am 3.5 years later still a vegan. That’s the short story that I am sure you have all heard it before.

But here is something I haven’t addressed before- what being a vegan means for my eating habits aside from the obvious no animal products.

I have been talking a lot lately about how I eat and how I used to eat and how I sometimes eat. When I first decided to lose weight I had a number of bad habits and behaviors that needed to be addressed. I had no idea of portion sizes, moderation was a foreign word to me, and I had this more serious (and obviously not as easy to fix) problem of binge eating. I loved decadent foods and I also loved junk. I really wasn’t picky when it came to what I ate. I was an equal opportunity overeater. But through WW, and the tools they provided me with, I was able to put into place some better habits and at the same time not completely lose my mind because I never felt deprived.

When the focus of my journey turned more to nutrition and health and wellness and not just daily points I started to look elsewhere for help and guidelines. Wanting to do more for myself I ventured into the plant-based diet and (surprising to me every day) it stuck. I can tell you all about the whys and the hows but that would probably be better suited for a different post. What I did find however, is my weight loss loophole.

You see, I am a volume eater and I am also a grazer. I like to eat. A lot. Dinners always came with second helpings and a trip to Grandma’s house meant that there would be food out and at the ready 24/7 (I think that is pretty common of Italian families). I know how to eat. I used to joke if there was an eating contest that wasn’t timed but was just by volume I would totally win. Being a vegan, or at least a vegan that focuses their diet around whole foods, allows me to eat. A lot. And still lose/maintain my weight.

And that is awesome.

Here is an example of what I mean. The other day in one of my FB groups someone posted they just had a 3,000 calorie lunch and showed their myfitnesspal tracker. They went to Red Robin and ate a burger (don’t remember which one) which was ~1200 calories, they ate a small order of fries (which at a place with bottomless fries- kudos for only eating one order) ~300 calories, drank a sprite ~200 calories and ate a piece of cake that was I believe over 1300 calories (I am trying to recite this from memory) – one lunch totaling ~3000 calories. My best guess is that they had no idea that they were consuming such a high calorie meal and then when they logged it they probably freaked out. I know I would. I have. I remember once eating out at Pei Wei and finishing an entire order of the spicy Korean with tofu and brown rice and it being ~1000 calories.  That was probably one of the worst meals out I’ve had since adopting a plant-based diet (calorie/fat wise)  and at the end of the day I don’t think that it’s too bad considering it was for two servings worth of food.

Even at chipotle getting a burrito bowl loaded with sofritas and guac and the usual rice and beans doesn’t break 1000 calories, not really close.

Because when you take away the meat and the cheese and the sour cream you lose a lot of fat and with that fat you lose calories. Not saying that there isn’t a lot of fat in what I eat (there is) but if you take what I eat and then add to it…it adds up quickly.

A good example is one night we were out at CPK. I was logging my dinner into MFP. I had their veggie pizza without cheese on the thin crust. The entire pizza is 600 calories (and I didn’t eat the whole thing). E asked me to look up his pizza and for what he was eating (something cheesy and meaty) it was almost 600 calories for just two slices, which was a third of the pizza.

You see…my loophole. I can eat a whole pizza, or both servings of Pei Wei, or a burrito bowl loaded up and not break my caloric bank. I also get to eat a lot of food. Which psychologically I think really helps me.

I am not saying this is good or bad. I am just saying this- it is very hard for me to go out to eat and accidentally eat nearly two days’ worth of my caloric intake, unless we start talking beer which in and of itself is a slippery slope. But I am not.  Today I am just talking food. My point is, it is easier for me to feel indulgent without much fear of it doing some serious damage.

I should stop here though and say I do try to always follow the 80/20 rule. Most of my meals (80% at least) are made at home. I prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner and all my snacks during the week and leave eating out and/or drinking to the weekends and still then, I limit it. I do not think I could maintain my weight and health if I ate out every day, even if my calories were ok.

That being said, there is a big issue with this loophole and that is- it has allowed me to fall into bad behaviors without much consequence. And up until now I really didn’t care that I still had relapses into binging behaviors.  But I should. I should be working to help fix the mental issues that allow me to still fall into these cycles even if I am still doing well weight and health wise. When I binge now, it looks a heck of lot different than when I binged as an omnivore. But the crazed need to consume is still there and that is a clear as day, red flag that my disorder is still there. Even if I manage it better. Even if I binge on broccoli and pasta and soup and other fairly healthy foods it’s still there.

So, that is where I am now. Realizing that it is important that I get help. Because I still do have a problem. Even if it is masked by my otherwise really good behaviors.

I am planning on attending my first OA meeting next Monday. I am hopeful that I will walk away with some good resources and on the path to recovery. I have to start somewhere right? I mean I already feel like I have started just in talking about this so much lately. And I have recognized this, and I know it needs to change, that eating with reckless abandon is never a good thing….even if it is the world’s largest salad.

Love and hugs,