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The Last Resort Weight-Loss Plan

                                    or

How to Keep Your Weight At 110# While On Psychotropic Drugs

I have tried all sorts of diets -- and kept gaining weight. Finally, I sat down and asked myself why the diets didn't work.

The honest answer was that I didn't like any of the diets I tried, and so I kept going off them and eating what I did like. A diet, to me, was a temporary set of eating habits that I had to grit my teeth and endure until my weight went down. Once that happened, I went off the diet. Then my weight went right back up, of course.

The fact is, losing weight is harder for some people than it is for others. Whether lithium, lack of will power (my problem), or a frantically busy schedule is the culprit doesn't really matter; it's just hard to lose weight. So, to lose weight, I designed a diet that's so much fun I'll never be tempted to go off it: The Last Resort Weight-Loss Plan. If you can lose weight on a diet that's no fun, do it. This weight-loss plan is for those of us who can't; it's our last resort.

Now I'm no longer gritting my teeth and enduring a temporary diet. My weight is no longer swinging up and down. Now I think of my eating pattern the way people think of "the diet of the caribou"; it's the way I eat, will always eat, and will always want to eat.

The Structure Of the Plan

Two Steps To Weight Loss

The Diet Doctors Are Right

Tips and Tricks

Reprogram Your Hypothalamus

Myths and Facts About Weight


The Structure Of the Plan

1.  A bare minimum of 30 minutes of exercise every  day: 
-at least 10 minutes of stretching a day, 
-and at least 20 minutes of walking or aerobic exercise a day.

2. With the exception of fruits and vegetables, I eat only  my most favorite foods. Because I have to keep things simple to save time, worry, and temptation, I divide all food into three groups:
-meat, poultry and fish 
-fruits and vegetables
-carbohydrates and fatty foods (including all dairy products, eggs, potatoes, popcorn and sweets)

3. Then I make sure that each day I eat:
-between 250 and 450 calories worth of the meat/fish group (Note: fish has fewer calories than beef, but don't be fooled by that. You need more fish to fill you up than you do beef.)
-and a bare minimum of 360 calories worth of the fruit/veggie group (more in summer).
-I get to use the rest of my daily calories on whatever foods from the carb/fat group I feel like eating that day.

4. When I'm buying fruits and vegetables, I think "nutrition". When I'm buying any other food, I think "taste" only. I avoid eating anything from the carb/fat group (even if it's free!) that I don't like. In fact, if any food is not a fruit/veggie or I'm not going to fondly remember its taste for a while, I don't eat it.

Why? Because, like every effective weight-loss plan, my diet involves going hungry sometimes. I discovered that it's easier to resist the temptation to give in to hunger if you can close your eyes and think about:
-how great the last thing you ate tasted, and
-how great your next meal is going to taste.
So I make sure that everything I eat except fruits and veggies tastes great. (And I make my fruits/veggies taste pretty good too.) To put it another way, I reward myself for going hungry not by eating more food but by eating more of my favorite foods.

5. This weight-loss plan doesn't forbid any particular food. So nothing you could eat would mean that you had gone off the diet. No more weight swings; this diet is forever.

6. Am I on a junk-food diet? No, because:
a. fatty foods are not necessarily junk food. There are plenty of delicious fatty foods that are great for you. And you need a certain amount of fat in your diet. 
b. Actually, there is no junk food. All nonpoisonous food (I consider alcohol poisonous) is good because it's all stuff your body needs. I discovered the hard way that how much you eat matters more than exactly what you eat.

7. Take it slow. Ask your doctor how much weight it's safe for you to lose at one time. Then aim for that (target) weight. Once you're at your target weight for a while, set a lower target weight, and so on until you weigh what you want to weigh. Doing it all at once:
a. jeopardizes your health
b. makes you so hungry!

Losing weight wasn't easy for me. I felt hungry all the time. The only way I could lose any weight at all was to concentrate primarily on one thing: reducing the calories I ate. I had to estimate, rather than carefully calculate, how much salt, minerals, and fats to eat, take a multiple vitamin every day rather than keeping track of exact vitamin intake, and trust that I'd get the nutrients I needed by balancing meat, carbs, fruit, and vegetables every day. Later, once I started to get my weight under control, I was able to work on increasing the vitamins and minerals I was eating.

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Two Steps To Weight Loss

A. First Step:  Losing Extra Weight
 
1. I looked up my optimum weight in a height-weight chart (available in most doctors' offices). It was 111 pounds (I'm 5'3"). I weighed 125, so I decided to try and lose 15 pounds. 

2. I got a physical and passed it. While I was there, asked the doctor if it was safe for me to try to lose 15 pounds at once. She said yes. So I didn't have to lose weight in more than one step; I was able to make 110 pounds my target weight right away.

3. Then I asked the doctor how many calories I should eat per day. She said that for me to get down to 110 pounds I should eat 1300 to 1500 calories a day. Since I was desperate to lose weight fast, I decided to try and stay below 1350 calories a day.

4. I clicked on a site with a calorie counter and found out how many calories there are in all the foods and beverages I like to eat (and all the fruits and veggies I can stand to eat). Or sometimes I found the calorie counts on the packages of food themselves.

5. I made daily menu charts with different proteins adding up to about 350 calories a  day and different fruits/veggies adding up to about 360 calories a day. Then I added carbs and fats whose total didn't take me above the 1350-calorie per day limit. It took quite a while; this diet isn't called the "Last-Resort Weight-Loss Plan" for nothing. If I'd eaten more than 1350 calories by the end of the day, I didn't let myself have dessert that day. If I'd stuck to the menu chart, I got a sweet reward. 

To follow this weight-loss plan you do not, I repeat do not, eat (when you get hungry) whichever food contains the fewest calories. You plan what you eat day by day, not meal by meal or "snack" by "snack". Since this weight-loss plan requires you to eat the foods you like the most, sometimes you're going to eat the food that contains the most calories. 

You add up the meat/fish calories you plan to eat each day, using the guidelines above, and the fruit/veggie calories you plan to eat. Then you subtract that total from your daily number of calories (1350 in my case). What's left is how many calories worth of dessert you can eat that evening providing you have stayed within the limits you have set. If the hunger gets unbearable, you're being too hard on yourself, and you need to raise your target weight for a while.

It's your choice. If you choose to eat a high-calorie meat course one day and you're left with no carb/fat calories, you're not a bad person; you just skip dessert. If you choose to eat a couple of slices of lean roast beef and skip the gravy and cheese sauce the next day, you can eat an absolutely wonderful dessert. If you choose to eat such a big breakfast and lunch one day that you reach your daily calorie limit by 3 pm., you're not a bad person; you just skip supper and dessert. (I say "just"! You had better be preoccupied with something really enjoyable to keep your mind off the hunger.)

6. So every week I make up seven different menu charts. Then I put all the food from the charts together in one list and go grocery shopping. I try to buy only the foods on the list, nothing else. But if I can't resist buying something that's not on the list, I take something from the same food group off the list. Say I impulsively buy a carton of ice cream. I'll take cheesecake off my list. This means that, each week, I only have about enough food in my kitchen to eat 1350 calories a day, and I've reduced the temptation to eat too much.

7. When I get home from grocery shopping, I split up my meat, chicken, and fish into packages of about 360 calories and put the packages in the freezer. Since I thaw one package a day, it's virtually impossible for me to eat more than 360 calories of meat a day. Sometimes I use this same trick with desserts. (But I live alone. This trick is more difficult if you live with other people.)

8. First thing in the morning, I weigh myself to see if what I ate the day(s) before have made my weight go up or down. Suppose my weight goes up after I've eaten, say, a lot of cold cuts. I'll think, "I guess cold cuts have more calories than the package says," raise the cold-cuts number on my menu charts, and eat less the next time I have cold cuts.

9. My hunger isn't too bad now that I've been on my new diet for six years. But, at first, I had to fight my hunger by reprogramming my hypothalamus.

B. Second Step: Maintaining Target Weight Forever

Now I don't have to spend as much time planning daily menus below 1350 calories because I've been keeping all the menu charts that work, that is, that don't increase or decrease my weight. 

I increase variety by making substitutions. In this weight-loss plan, apples and oranges are pretty much the same, because a small apple has about as many calories as a large orange.

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The Diet Doctors Are Right -- You Do Have To:

1. exercise regularly. But here's a surprise: exercise doesn't burn off any more calories than sleeping does! That is, most of the calories you eat are burned up by your metabolism: digesting food, thinking, making your heart beat, healing cuts, and so on.

So why exercise? Because if you cut down the calories you eat without exercising, your hypothalamus will think you're faced with a life-threatening shortage of food. It will slow down your metabolism, desperately trying to make your scarce resources (the protein in your muscles and the fat stored on your hips) last longer. You'll burn fewer calories, even in your sleep.

Then, as if to add insult to injury, when it sees that there isn't much more sugar and fat in your blood stream, your hypothalamus will signal your body to burn not the fat but the protein. Your muscles will slowly be burned up. Why? Because it's easier to burn muscle than fat.

So exercise! The activity will give two signals to your hypothalamus:
-Don't burn up these muscles. I'm using them. 
-Look how fast I'm making my heart beat. You're going to have to keep my metabolism going nice and fast, and burn up lots of calories.

2. get a balanced diet, that is, some of each food group each day. But I had to simplify the food groups (see above) a little because keeping track of the calories I was eating was already so time-consuming. I get all the nuts and grains and the other things the doctors recommend, but I don't try to follow all the dietary recommendations to the letter. Instead, I follow the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) rule. I never get fewer than 250 calories of meat/fish and 360 calories of fruit/vegetables a day. I get the rest of my calories any way I want, and then I forget about food and go out and keep busy.

3. Eat small, frequent meals. This is the first thing I tried when I wanted to lose weight. But I misunderstood the diet experts and ate too many meals that were too small. Then I started missing my old meat-and-potato dinners, felt deprived, and went off the diet. 

Now I've wised up. I eat several meals of varying sizes each day. I eat often enough that my hypothalamus sometimes doesn't even have time to decide that my sugar level is too low and make my stomach cramp up. But I still eat one meal a day that's big enough to make me feel satisfied afterward.

4. Never ever eat when you're not hungry. Why should you do that? Eat your dessert last -- at the end of the day -- to make sure you get at least 360 calories-worth of fruit/veggies a day without eating them when you're not hungry.

Never eat out of habit. For example, never eat only because you always eat at parties, at your parents' place, just before bed, while watching TV or a movie, or whatever. Never eat to make yourself feel better after rejection, to give yourself a high, or for any other psychological reason. (But if you eat only at scheduled mealtimes, your reason for eating probably won't be psychological.) Never eat just to be polite. If your friends get angry that you're not eating, they're not really your friends. If you're going to have to eat in order to get on the good side of an important person, eat less before the visit to make sure you'll be hungry.

5. Again, think "permanent". It wreaks havoc on your body (not to mention your wardrobe!) when you go from heavy to light to heavy again. I crafted a diet for myself that I like better than any other way of eating. I'm looking forward to eating this way for the rest of my life.

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Tips and Tricks

1. I never eat food "just in case": just in case I might get stuck somewhere without food later on. I think, "If I get hungry, I'll use that opportunity to lose some weight."

2. I spice up my food a lot. I find most vegetables a little boring, so I add cheese or seasonings to them so I won't be tempted to eat too few vegetables.  

3. There's no such thing as a "snack" in the Last Resort Weight-Loss Plan. You decide how much food you're going to eat and at what time of day. So, when my friends come over and want nachos, we have nachos, and I budget them right into my day's menu chart. Sometimes I can even spice up vegetables I hate (like eggplant) like nachos and trick my mind into liking them.

4. I don't listen to people as much as I used to. Now that I'm pretty slender, people will urge me to eat, saying, "Surely, at your weight, you can afford to eat just one cookie!"  I say, "Please don't call me Shirley."

5. There's no such thing as a "fattening" food. Everything that contains calories can potentially make you fat. Sure, fats are more calorie-dense than carbohydrates. But if you pig out on saltines long enough you will get just as fat as if you were pigging out on ice cream. If you eat more calories than your body burns, you gain weight, period.

6. When I added regular exercise to my routine (before I started on this weight-loss plan), I gained five pounds. At first I was upset. Then I felt my arms and legs and realized that the added weight was muscle. My target weight had gone from 106 to 111, and I could eat just the tiniest bit more each day.

7. During the period when I was severely depressed, there was no way I could lose weight. I didn't care about my weight. Being lonely and bored also makes me hungry. I guess it's not a good idea to start trying to lose weight when you're depressed, lonely, or bored.  

But please! If you get depressed after you've started the Last-Resort Weight-Loss Plan, don't completely give up on it. That would be a waste of all the work you already did. Keep on counting each day's calories, and just raise your target weight -- to give yourself a break. Then, when you feel better, it won't be too hard to lower your target weight again and continue losing weight.

8. Beverages can cause weight gain. Lithium can make you drink a lot, and all that drinking may cause weight gain on lithium. Budget your beverages right into your menu charts.

9. I weigh myself as soon as I get up, before breakfast, wearing nothing. I'm trying for consistency, weighing myself at the same time in the same way each day. That way, any changes will tell me that my weight, nothing else, has changed. (As you lose weight, weigh yourself less and less often.)

10. Don't be afraid of hunger. Hunger never killed anybody who had sugar and fat stored in their body. Your doctor, who knows if you have sugar and fat stored in your body, said it was safe for you to lose weight.

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Reprogramming Your Hypothalamus

Your hypothalamus is an organ in your head that monitors the levels of sugar and fat in your bloodstream. When your sugar and/or fat level gets low, your hypothalamus takes steps to make you want to eat so you'll get more sugar and/or fat. 

The first step your hypothalamus takes is to have your stomach cramp up and growl in order to signal you to start eating. Once you eat, your blood sugar level goes back up to normal.

If you don't start eating within a certain amount of time, your hypothalamus goes to Plan B: it has the extra sugar stored in your liver taken out and dumped into your blood stream. Then your blood sugar goes back up to normal for a while until supplies run out.

If you still don't eat, your hypothalamus goes to Plan C: it has your enzymes start breaking down whatever is in your body that can most easily be broken down. They convert this stuff into sugar, which gets dumped into your blood stream. Then your blood sugar level goes back up to normal.

The hypothalamus does a very important job; it makes it hard for people to starve to death, even if food is scarce. But my hypothalamus was driving me crazy. (Oops!  Too late!)  It would cause hunger cramps whenever I smelled food, saw a picture of food, read about food, or even just got a little bored.

I solved the problem by eating certain types of food at certain times of the day only, ignoring the hunger cramps, until my hypothalamus got the message that it wasn't going to get satisfaction every time it cramped up my stomach. Once it understood (yes, I know my hypothalamus can't think!) that I wasn't under any circumstances going to eat lunch until noon, it stopped making me hungry before noon. When I do feel hungry, I look up at the clock, and, sure enough, it's noon. My hypothalamus may be a bit of a Torquemada, but it sure can tell time.

The down side is that, if I eat anything at, say, 10 a.m. (anywhere between breakfast and noon), the next day my hypothalamus is likely to start my stomach cramping at 10 a.m. The only way I could reprogram my hypothalamus not to cramp up my stomach all day long was to get rather rigid about when I eat. It also helps to eat the same sort of thing at the same time each day. At noon I eat meat and a carbohydrate. At 3:30 I eat meat and a fruit or vegetable. At 7:30 I eat a dessert. My hypothalamus knows it's futile to make me hungry for the wrong food at the wrong time, because I'm very strict with it.

I don't have to be; I could eat at all different times and endure the hunger. That's the tradeoff I chose; you may choose a different tradeoff when you decide to lose weight. It doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is: the total number of calories you eat each day has to maintain your target weight, that is, not cause weight gain.

But I like my way of keeping my weight down, because now that I'm used to eating the same amount of food at the same time each day, I get a very clear full feeling if I eat more than I usually do at that time of day.  And that's great because now, if I'm eating out somewhere where I can't check a calorie chart, my diet isn't jeopardized. I just eat food from whatever food groups I'm used to eating at that time of day and my hypothalamus tells me when I've had the right amount.

Jean M. Bradt, Ph.D.

Myths and Facts About Weight

Got feedback? Email Dr. Bradt at cassjmb10@att.net

Donít force behavior! 
Change attitudes.