I'm a big believer in the concept of the shared human experience. Sure, we all have our own differences that make us quite unique from one another. But it is those areas where our paths cross even in what may seem like subtle ways where we realize the commonality we have.
For people who desire weight loss and improvements to their health, this community experience with your fellow man is all the more pronounced. There's a certain pain that an overweight or obese person feels about themselves and the predicament they are in that a thin "normal" person would NEVER even come close to comprehending.
It's this lack of understanding of the emotional and psychological needs of someone who is fat and sick that continues to feed the very problem itself. Diet book after diet book has come out blaming your weight problem on...well YOU! And to a certain degree, that's true. But a lot of it has to do with what you've been "told" is good for you, not necessarily what IS good for you.
The confusion sets in and people just don't know what to do. Believe me, I understand that cat and mouse game because I played it for most of my adult life until I found the Atkins diet in 2004. That decision to begin eating that way and to keep on eating that way forever quite literally changed my life forever. I committed myself to it, but the most important difference from previous "diet" experiences is it was what worked for me.
You'll hear me saying this until I'm blue in the face for the rest of my life, but it is my mantra for how people can lose weight and get healthy: Find a plan that will work for you, read the book about that particular plan, follow that plan EXACTLY as prescribed by the author, and then keep doing that plan until you reach your goal and for the rest of your life. It is a strategy for success that works no matter what you decide to do in terms of your diet program.
Sometimes, though, there are those who need an extra special dose of inspiration to get them going. They seem to "know" what to do, but then they really don't. Career dieters, those who have been on every diet known to mankind in their life, can tell you everything there is to know about how to eat healthy. Or at least whatever that latest book has to say about it.
Take, for example, a conversation I was having with a man from my church choir yesterday during dinner. We're in Montgomery, Alabama singing at a church revival here with our pastor and they fed us Subway sandwiches. Naturally, I took the meat, cheese, and veggies off the bread and ate it with some mustard and mayonnaise. Keep in mind everyone knows I've lost a TON of weight and kept it off now since 2004.
This one fella who is one of the most likable guys you'd ever meet saw my "meaty" plate with the "fatty" condiment on the side and said, "You know all that meat and fat is unhealthy, boy." Of course, when the door of opportunity opens to share about livin' la vida low-carb is a positive way, I do it! :D
I politely explained that eating fat is indeed much healthier when you keep your carbs reduced and that it is all those carbs in those two sub sandwiches he just ate and the sugar/white flour in those two cookies he was about to eat that was indeed what was unhealthy. All he could see if FAT IS BAD, but he saw nothing wrong with the plethora of carbohydrates he was flooding his body with.
Indeed we have a major problem regarding healthy nutrition and it will not improve until people can be made to understand the underlying issues regarding their obesity, diabetes, sleeping problems, and a whole host of other health ailments. The only thing that registers is FAT IS BAD. It's the constant uphill battle we must counter with a gentle reminder of the truth from time to time.
In the spirit of our shared experience, let me reprint an e-mail I received from a dear reader who is one of the people like I described above as a lifelong dieter. She's read all the books and knows everything there is about losing weight. And yet she's 360 pounds and a Type 2 diabetic at the age of 38. She doesn't need education, but instead could use a healthy helping of inspiration.
Here's what she wrote:
I'm 38, a Type 2 diabetic (that I treat solely with insulin), and I weigh about 360 pounds. Thats because I've lost about 40 pounds the last year or so. I have read so many great things about your book that I think I've finally decided to order it. I've read my gamut of weight loss books Atkins, The Zone, Fit for Life, Lean for Life, Sugar Busters, Suzanne Sommers, various food addict books. You name it, I've read it and tried it.
I've had a weight problem all of my life, but never as out of control as it has become since my father died. I suffered from post traumatic shock finding him myself. He had passed away in the middle of the night from a massive stroke. I think I feed into the guilt of being there with him that night and not hearing him so I could do anything about it. I turned to food as my trusted crutch. I must have weighed in about 220 pounds then. That was 4 years ago now.
My world is small. I am a prisoner of my own making. I refuse to see friends because I have not accepted the fact that I have let myself become so obese. It has been years, and I'm lucky they're still seeking me out, but the thought of having to see them this way is brutal. Somewhere along the way my life split off on that day that I found my dad, and I've been in this dark place since.
I never imagined I would be prisoner to my food addictions. I live with my mother and I'm 38 years old. I keep saying, I'll start tomorrow, or I'll start Monday, or I keep waiting for that bolt of lightning from above to strike down on me and hit me solid into snapping out of my food spell.
I used to have such a passion for living. I still feel that inside, but I'm too ashamed to be seen in public. I've developed severe panic and anxiety attacks since too. I can't just go anywhere in public without the worry of finding a place to sit, or if I will fit. I can't go anywhere without the scrutinizing looks in general. I used to love going to the movies, but since I can't fit into regular seats or because of my knee problems I can't really walk much distance without feeling winded or injured.
When I think about what I weigh, and how much I have to lose it just seems hopeless. I do have my small moments of inspiration, but they are fleeting. I fall off the wagon and that's it. I forget about any progress made and go back into my constant mode of thinking about food, obsessing about my next meal.
The truth is, I can remember as far back as 12 years old when the mall in our small hometown had just opened. I remember making a Christmas list for my brother and I to go shopping for, but it wasn't without all of the food places we could catch in the mall first Chick-fil-a, Corny Dog you name it. It has been a life long addiction.
I didn't used to have this food addiction to this degree. At the time I had switched the addiction with something more lethal alcohol. I was only about 170 pounds when I turned 30, but I could fit into a pair of 501s, and I felt great about my body. I was an alcoholic on the weekends, but I was closer to my ideal weight. I traded one vice for another.
In 1994 I let my weight balloon up to 240, at the time that was my highest weight. I lived on my own so it was easy to stock my fridge with the foods I wanted. This was during all of the Susan Powter Low Fat craze going about then. I remember getting my first student loan check and going out and buying a mountain climber, a bench step, a weight bench and a scale. There was no question in my mind I was going to lose my weight. I cut out sodas, drank only water, got home from class and made two skinless, boneless Shake N Bake chicken breasts while I did my 30 minutes of bench step with my space suit on. I felt great. I was losing weight quick. Every time I took off my space suit after a cardio workout, I could just feel the fat melting away. The more I lost, the more focused I became.
At that point in time I had never read a diet book, or taken a nutrition class before in my life. I just used common sense. I got my weight down in less than a year to about 160 pounds. I kept my weight loss for about 8 years or so until I moved away from Austin. I stayed between 160 and 170 during that time.
It seems like the more I have read, the more conflicted I've become as to a solid approach on weight loss. One book can be completely contradictory to the next and it's confusing. The thing is I used to know how to lose weight when I wasn't a diabetic, when I could get on a bench step and do 30 minutes of aerobics after my night classes, but now I don't know. The more I know, the less I know.
Right now I'm looking more for inspiration. I have more lows than I do highs. I'm still coming out of the gates so to speak. For the most part the past year I've dropped a little weight by just cutting back, but God do I still have my downfalls. I know for certain since I am a diabetic that I need a low carb diet so I won't have the sugar spikes. I know I can't be completely low carb because my kidneys can't stay in ketosis for long because of my diabetes. I don't know how to live without the insulin and I can't seem to get a straight answer to this one simple question can I still lose weight on a low carb diet and still take inject my insulin? I've asked doctors, looked online, read book after book and I can't find that answer. It's discouraging, Jimmy, so discouraging.
This week I have been on-track. I wake up, have 2 eggs, two sausages for breakfast with about 32 ounces of water. I'm eating salads with Ranch dressing for lunch. I also have a question on Ranch dressing is it a low carb food I can indulge in and feel okay about? For dinner I've been pounding out a skinless, boneless chicken breast or two and roasting thick slices of cauliflower, or grilling egg plant or fresh mushrooms. I make ham rolls with cream cheese and will snack on pork rinds if Im hungry late at night. I feel better. I feel I'm still eating too much, but I am finding I'm eating these amounts to keep the hunger away. I make sugar free pudding and Jell-o. I have granola bars in case I want something more substantial, but those aren't too low carb.
I don't know Jimmy. There's my story and a sample of my diet. I try to keep my mom on it too, but she cheats a lot at work. My mom and I enable our food addictions. When were not on the same page, it's hard to do this. She's also a diabetic and will be 60 on January 3rd. We were allowing ourselves this past year, every Saturday night in fact, a dinner of fried chicken from Churchs. That was our bad meal for the week that we allowed ourselves. She's lost about 25 pounds or so, but our weight loss is hardly but a drop in the bucket.
It would be a dream for both of us to get healthy together. And as soon as I can afford to get your book I'm ordering it. I'm looking for inspiration, something to get me through the fight and struggle I have everyday.
As far as working out, I have a knee injury possibly a tear in my ligament. I broke my ankle about 6 months after my dad died and it still bothers me. I have a double-stack universal weight bench in my room, with a pec-dec, squat-rack, and cable rows it basically has everything. I just haven't used it. I haven't been able to sleep on a bed in over a year. I sleep on a recliner mostly because of my knee, and because I feel like I'm crushing my chest under the weight of my body when I sleep on my side. My mom is an RN and she tells me I have sleep apnea too.
I know. I'm a horrible mess.
What would be a God-send from you would be your opinion on my meal plan, maybe some helpful tips on snacking, how you stayed on track and how in the world do you get over the number you have to lose? Did you ever allow yourself any meals off? Or anything you feel that will help me at this point of desperation.
I do thank you Jimmy in advance for your time and taking the time to read this. God Bless You!
Did you see any parts of your own life in that reader's story? Boy, I sure did! It's funny how a complete stranger can know so much about how I feel. Those common experiences we dieters have been through makes that possible.
I was so honored by the fact that she shared freely from her heart that I sent her a complimentary copy of my e-book to hopefully be inspired to begin anew on the amazingly healthy low-carb journey and to REALLY DO IT this time. You hate to see people hurting and I've made it my personal mission to help people just like this get out of their funk and on the path to better health.
Here was my response back to her:
God bless you for pouring out your story to me so honestly and openly today. I'm sorry to hear about all that you have gone through in your life and I will be praying for you to overcome those struggles to rise triumphantly above them.
You have so many questions and concerns that it would be my pleasure to give you a complimentary copy of the e-book version of my "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb: My Journey From Flabby Fat To Sensationally Skinny In One Year." It is attached to this e-mail and answers MANY of the questions you had for me.
Besides the granola bar, you diet right now looks great! And no your calories are not too high. In fact, you might consider adding MORE fat to your diet and keep those carbs to a minimum.
Regarding the insulin, consult with your doctor about that, but you should still take your insulin even while low-carbing until the diet controls that naturally. Your DOCTOR will be the best one to help you determine when you can stop taking insulin, if ever.
ENJOY my book and let me know if you have any questions.
She is but one face in a sea of them out there in the world living life the best they know how. But the breaking point is so close they're not sure they'll make it. That's why I am here throwing out a lifeline to people like this because they DESERVE a chance to be set free from their bondage to their weight and health problems.
Regardless of where you are in this shared human experience, it's good to know there are people who have gone before you and those who will come behind you as well. We all must stick together to educate, motivate, and inspire each other to achieve more than we ever thought possible. The mountain may indeed seem impossible to climb sometimes, but it IS conquerable.
The time is NOW to do it and to put aside all the excuses for why you have failed. You have NOT failed...you just haven't found the plan that works for you yet. Keep at it and NEVER GIVE UP!!! Your success story is just waiting to be told and I can't wait to hear it. You DESERVE this, so go MAKE IT HAPPEN!!!
Feel free to leave your comments about this concept of a "shared human experience" and any encouragement for people who are like this reader who e-mailed me. Of course, I'm always available via e-mail anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be my privilege to hear from you and help you any way that I can. God bless you!
11-5-07 UPDATE: Here's someone with a common experience to my reader who wanted to share some experiential advice.
Regarding the woman who's 38, a Type 2 diabetic who gets discouraged when she thinks about the seemingly insurmountable amount of weight she has to lose. I'm 47 and a historically sedentary Type 2. I need to lose about 150 pounds; my husband, closer to 200. When we decided to change to a low-carb lifestyle, we decided not to concentrate of what we had to lose, but what we had to gain from this 'journey,' as you call it. We decided to concentrate not on the big picture we see in the mirror everyday, but on the bigger, life-long picture the world outside can't always see, but we can feel: Lower blood sugar numbers; looser-fitting clothes; less joint and back pain; no more voracious, angry hunger spikes; more energy to get through the day; no more tearing through the pantry in a desperate search for the perfect food for the mood; a conscious feeling of better health and mental alertness; a better outlook on life and the future.
You can tell I'm new to this whole experience, kinda like being saved just yesterday and wanting the whole world to know about it. But whether you're the type of person who lives to eat or just eats to live, food is such a huge part of life. And diabetes can put an even bigger crimp into things if you let it get to you mentally. Unless your reader's doctor is telling her she can't do low-carb, I'd do as you suggested -- keep on with the plan she's adopted and the meds she's on, and let her doctor -- or better yet, her body -- tell her what she needs and doesn't need.
I'd also tell her to break it down into phases. Maybe not try to be the ideal low-carber and perfect exerciser all at once. Just get one of those down to a consistent plan (the food) and then start on the other (the exercise) a couple days, maybe a week after. And if she's living with someone who hasn't "gotten with the program," as they say, maybe your reader can become the meal planner. If that doesn't work, then she should concentrate on her meals and let her mother do her own thing. When we eat together, my husband and I may start with the same basic meal, but we tweak our portions to suit our personal preferences. So, when your reader and mom have chicken for dinner, Reader can concentrate on her serving of chicken and not worry about what Mom does with her portion.
Plus, as a perfectionist, which many addicts are, I've had to learn to forgive myself when I don't always get it right the first time. I'm in this for the rest of my life, so it's okay to stumble because everyday I learn something new. After all, I'm not Atkins or Eades. Plus, if I do stumble, I haven't blown another diet; I can make up for it by adjusting the next meal or exercise session. I've made a LIFESTYLE change that's got cumulative benefits. And, while it is a major life change, she'll find those benefits are phenomenal and worth every second of it.