Monday, January 5, 2009

Weight Loss and the Disorder

Losing weight when you have depression, anxiety, or both is a double edged sword. On the one hand, the disorder is strong in your system, begging you to not do anything that would help you become healthy. It is luring you into thinking that you can rest and do what you want all the time and not to watch silly things like the food you eat and the exercise you get because you want to eat what tastes good and not exert too much energy. There is also that feeling that there is so much more going on in life that energy must be saved for so the workout goes on the way side and the food is much easier to get if it is to go and can be eaten on the run. Sometimes it's just good to eat on the run because that means that you don't have to sit alone and eat, worry about the mess, or interact with the other people eating with you. It is time to be sequestered and quiet. Those times are good and necessary, except when they become the norm rather than the exception. That is the prime time to put on those extra pounds.

Now is also the time that you hear about all the ways you can lose weight after the typical New Year's resolution is made with most Americans. We want to lose weight, be healthy, and be more fit for the New Year. This goal is noble in and of itself, but it has one major flaw: most of the people who make that resolution don't want to actually have to do the work involved. They look for the quick fix: the OTC weight loss pill, the fad diet, the promise of losing weight quickly and painlessly. There are always ads on the TV for this miracle pill that will allow you to burn fat while you sleep or this special equipment that allows you to do as much work in five minutes as you would for an hour at the gym. However, most people don't need that stuff. Sure, it sounds like a quick easy fix, but if it doesn't work for our disorders, why would it work for losing weight? Disorders take time to control, to understand, and to learn to live with. Sometimes it is a combination of the right medication, counseling, good decent spiritual guidance from a Father Confessor in the church, and unconditional love from family and friends that helps tame the beast within. However, this isn't a process we expect to be fixed in a month, or even six months in some cases. It's a lifetime process. That's how one should approach weight loss.

If you decide to give up certain foods, be sure you can do it for life. Don't say, "I won't eat any more sweets" if you still want a birthday cake, Christmas cookies next year, or a sweetened soda pop for that extra afternoon caffeine buzz. This isn't to say that you should stick to the diet that helped you gain extra pounds, but look instead to moderation. "I am not going to have seconds. This is what I get and the rest will be for tomorrow." "Sure, I'll get a birthday cake, but do I really need the one that feeds 24 when only five people are going to be celebrating with me?" Reflecting before filling your plate is key. Eat sensibly but don't starve yourself. Starving will only lead to binge eating, which leads to guilt, which leads to starving. This cycle helps you add more pounds, not take them off. Discover new foods that you love but don't give up the old favorites. Just know that you can enjoy them without going overboard.

Set up a workout plan that you can live with. If your mornings are busy, try the evening. If you don't want to do something formal, go out for a walk. If you want to be indoors or outdoors, it's up to you. Don't boggle yourself down by what you think you should do to optimize weight loss. Do what you enjoy. The weight loss will come naturally after this. Set a schedule that you can stay with. Personally, I prefer the mornings. It gets me ready for the day with energy and helps wake me up after I am feeling particularly groggy. It's also something that I can easily stick with. I get up, work out, take a shower, and finish my morning routine. This keeps me from having to take two showers a day or take one at night which I don't prefer. An added bonus is that symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other disorders tend to lessen naturally from the burned calories. As much as it might seem like work, will make you sore, and perhaps more tired at first, it is just as much medicine for your disorder as your prescription and counseling sessions. It's good for you all around and an added benefit is that it will make you look better too!

Know that you are not in for a quick fix. This is going to take a while. It might be six months, it might be a year. The goal is not to lose weight directly. The goal is to help with the disorder. The weight loss is just a wonderful added bonus. Enjoy the ride. This will also allow you to continue to exercise and help your disorder long after you hit your goal of how many pounds to shed. This is a lifestyle change not a diet.

Good luck if you try lose weight. Like working with a disorder, there are going to be ups and downs, successes and failures. There will be times when you want to give up and times that you are so proud you'd burst your britches if you weren't missing those extra inches. Personally, I'm down a pants size and still going! If you ever need encouragement, drop me a line! I don't have all the answers, but I can at least listen!