My new friend, Phen

I have been trying to lose weight as long as I can remember. I mean, it’s almost as if I was born and then said, yep – time to skip that breast milk, gotta shed a few. Oh wait, I wasn’t breastfed.  Can I blame my heavy weight on that? Or my family genetics? Bone density? Environment? The fast food industry? Probably a combination of multiple factors, but best not to dwell on that at the moment.

As an adult, I’d say it’s fair to say that I’ve hit all the major diet programs at one point or another – Jenny Craig, Nutri System, Weight Watchers, Atkins, etc. But I have never really been one for the extreme diets with miracle testimonials — eat all the grapefruit you want for 2 weeks (yeah, sounds fun) or eat according to your blood type (???huh?) or just take this pill once a day and watch the weight dissolve (can’t pull the wool over my eyes). I was indoctrinated to believe you watch the calories that go in and work on the energy you expend. The basics, right? Now of course, the fitness industry is much more complicated and has all kinds of directions and details that frankly, I don’t really care about. I just want to see results.

As part of my Weight Loss 101, I learned like a good little student that the safest and best way to lose weight is to watch what you eat and exercise. It’s up to you to make the difference and any drugs or surgeries like gastric bypass shouldn’t be considered, unless you are an extreme case. (And that definitely wasn’t going to be me.) So I’ve meandered on for years, doing it on my own, with the occasional help of diet programs and trainers and periods of success followed by a trip back up the scale.

Imagine my gasp of horror when my Endocrinologist recently said she wanted to put me on a weight loss drug. What?!? I wanted to look over my shoulder and see if there was someone else in the room. You’re talking to me? Umm…think again! I don’t need a drug. In fact, since January I’ve been working the program. Have a trainer and dietician. I am shedding weight slowly but reasonably. I am making progress, so how dare she suggest a weight loss drug! Given my future plans to bring forth life, my doctor wants me to be 15 pounds lighter before I get pregnant. Ok, I agree and that was my goal as well. Even though I haven’t been progressing as quickly as planned, all my recent blood work is showing great signs of progress and healthiness. She runs me through the drug, Phentermine. Describes how it used to be part of the dreaded duo Phen-Phen, but the other Phen was the bad one, causing all those nasty heart murmurs. Hmm. It’s always bad when you don’t have the right partner. I agree to do a trial run for a month.

First day, boom! Didn’t think it was possible, but my energy level definitely shifted up a whole notch. Not to jitteriness, but a noticeable difference with more focus. Also completely lost my appetite — like it currently doesn’t exist; Like I have to ask myself, ‘Have I eaten in the last 2 hours?’ and force myself to eat when not hungry – ALL the time. Oh, and a bit of an issue with restless sleep at night. My dietician was concerned. At our session, we looked up the drug. Yep, lots of great amphetamines in Phentermine (is that why they sound so similar?). No wonder I’m feeling more…vibrant. (Sounds better than gassed up or high or on speed.) The question is how much this can impact my thyroid or throw it out of whack, but my dietician agreed we give it a chance  – if I remembered the importance of eating regularly and maintaining healthy nutrition. OK, deal.

So I’m just about two weeks in now. Headed to the gym today. Hopped on the scale. I’ve officially lost 18 pounds since late January! 2-3 pounds in the last week. The slow going of one pound a week seems to have been sped up by my friend, Phen. Of course, I’m feeling elated and trying not to feel like a cheater by using the drug. It’s not all a bed of roses. It is weird to never have an appetite or have your stomach grumble. When I start to feel the slightest bit hungry it actually catches me by surprise and I’ve never had the problem of having to REMEMBER to eat. Who would have thought? But there is no miracle cure and my friendship with Phen is short-lived. If I want to succeed after that, I have to be eating right. Complete lifestyle change. Yada, yada, yada.

Oh happy day! I’m still going to celebrate. 18 pounds in 14 weeks is not too shabby. It’s funny because in the past people have sometimes said, “oh, you look good. You look like you lost weight.’ When I haven’t done a damn thing and I’ve probably gained weight versus lost it. And now that I have actually lost some decent weight, nobody has really noticed, except for me. Oh, and my friend Carol. But it’s all good. Progress, slow and steady.

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Weight is THE Number, But Not the Only Number

The downside of the forty plus decade age is that you start to notice your body does not quite operate the way it used to or the way you think it should. In my younger days, I heard those ‘older’ folks complain and frankly, I could not relate. I had no sense or worry that this would ever happen to me. Ah, the joys of being young and ignorant! But whether you have something sagging in one area, creaks in another, aches and pains that never used to exist, less energy, performance issues (I’m just saying..it can happen) or you are staring at a mid-life crisis, the 40+ decade seems to have some pitfalls around health. And if you aren’t paying attention, they sneak up on you and attack like a bat out of hell!

I’ve never been skinny. I have struggled with my weight most of my life actually, so maybe it shouldn’t have come as a big surprise to me when some lab results in January proclaimed problems with my cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides and thyroid. The previous six months I hadn’t been working out and was  living under very stressful work conditions (ok, who are we kidding – that was true for the last 18 months really!). I didn’t feel excessively tired or sickly. I felt ok. I was getting by. I was surviving. Quitting my job late last year was one step in the right direction for change and I began to enjoy some well-deserved relaxation.  But lab results like these and the term ‘pre-diabetic’ jolted me back into a different sort of action. This combined with the fact that it’s difficult to get pregnant with a high thyroid and all that other stuff creates a not-so-swell baby environment. It has been nothing if not a challenge to bring the baby dream into reality (insert groan here).

So I was off like a firecracker with the P90X and weight watchers.  Lost about 10 pounds in 7 weeks, but felt myself plateauing. And for those of you that can relate to emotional eating….well, if I’m not losing and seeing a difference then ‘what the hell am I doing all this for??  Might as well enjoy that beer or those M&Ms after all.’ I am well-versed with this pitfall, so I signed up with a dietician and a trainer for some serious one-on-one behavior change therapy. And this was just what I needed even though I have developed strong, unkindly feelings of dislike towards my dietician. My dietician, Janelle, is the nicest person, but she is also in the position to tell me things that I don’t want to hear  and often, don’t want to do. (Lucky gal!) I don’t protest to her face (that would be rude after all…gotta suck it up), but after our sessions I’m usually cussing her out under my breathe or to my trainer (where not surprisingly, I get NO sympathy). I have learned that it takes me a couple of days to process her comments and suggestions. And don’t get me wrong, she’s not an ogre. She is just doing her job. So every week she reviews my food journal and comments, tweaks, sighs and offers advice. Last week she talked about starting to wean off processed foods. Say what? Sounds bloody impossible. And I always have homework for the next week, which usually involves doing something else I don’t like, i.e. cutting out something else from my diet.  And so it goes.

After 3 weeks with my dietician and my trainer, I was complaining bitterly that I had not lost a single pound. Instead the scale seemed to go up and back down again. Utter frustration. I resisted covering my ears with my hands as they counseled about how it takes time for a body to adjust and change, and weight is not the only number in play here; its about changes on multiple fronts. I tried to remember why I was really doing all this and keeping up the effort of 6 days a week, sweat your balls off, workouts – searching deep down for the motivation. Yeah, blah, blah, blah. Ultimately, I have come to realize how fixated I can be on the number. You know, THE number – my weight. It has become such a focus for me. For most of my life, my weight has often determined how I felt on a certain day. Talk about giving up your power to some non-existing entity. Geez! So, as you can imagine, it was driving me crazy not to see a result. Then, I noticed I was pulling my belt tighter another notch and I felt a little more energized.  Hmm…this is interesting. Next I got some new lab results which showed my thyroid had returned to normal levels (thank you drugs), sugars had decreased and my blood pressure was also normal.Of course I had to refrain from running to the scale to see what THE number had to say. I lasted a week. But, hey, that’s good for me 🙂 When I finally jumped on, I had only lost one additional pound from my previous plateau. I had an instance of feeling disappointed, but then I thought NO! I’m not going to let this tamper with my day. I’m doing good! So I mentally patted myself on the back and went on my way.  Maybe some of what my dietician and trainer are preaching is finally getting through. I do have a thick skull and a real bitch of a voice inside my head. I feel I have made some progress, even though it’s all happening much slower than I would like. But what do I expect after 25+ years of dieting and poor eating habits and yo-yo weight gain; that’s it’s all going to change in a matter of months? Yes, I’m impatient. But now I’m also committed. The hardest part may be marrying the two so that I can make the difference in myself that I want to make. Ugh! (insert another groan)

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