Welcome to Phase 2!

Sorry, everyone. I got you all excited for our big graduation reveal and then disappeared!

I still want to focus on giving you the big “end of Phase 1” feature post I promised. Unfortunately, I’ve come down with yet ANOTHER!!! cold and I know it will take me some time before I’m ready to write it, and I didn’t want folks to worry in the meantime. I had hoped that being in the best shape and health of my life might improve my immune system a little, but a) type 1 diabetes is incurable; as an auto-immune disease, it means I take -10 to all illness checks for the rest of my life, and b) it’s a vicious cold and flu season this year, even in its infancy. I was about to get my flu shot last week, but I won’t be able to do so until I’m over this cold. Figures, right? There isn’t enough profanity in all of Earth’s dead and living languages combined to cover how I feel about all of this, so I’ll spare you. I may get sick a lot, but two weeks apart is extreme even for me, and of course it’s all at a time when I really need to be doing something else!

Right now I’m determined (DterminD?) to avoid having to take another medical hold. I was fortunate to get sick late on Friday this time, and I’ve been resting all weekend. It seems to be a fast-moving bug at least, so I’m very hopeful that missing today’s workout (and probably tomorrow’s TRX… sigh) will be the worst of the fallout. I’m also determined to keep making sure John doesn’t get sick. Even if my immune system is forever compromised, his seems to be doing great so far – knock on wood. If you’re the praying sort, I know we’d both appreciate it. So far we’ve managed to avoid having to face managing our diets with both of us sick and nobody to cook, but I’d prefer to keep it that way! (Of course, I know I have great friends that would offer to help, and there are a few places we can eat out or order delivery from while still staying on plan. We have options!)

For now, the major news is that we are both graduates of Phase 1 of the 20/20 program! As it turns out, the sessions I missed due to medical hold just apply to the program in general, not to Phase 1 specifically. That means my graduation date for Phase 1 didn’t change despite my being out. It’s been a wonderful journey, and even though it has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done for myself, I cannot express how good this has all been for me. I’ve done my best to learn, to change, to grow, and to embrace this new way of thinking about diet and exercise, and my wonderful team has been eager, patient, and informative throughout the process. Though difficult, none of this has been anything like what I feared, and I’ve emerged stronger, wiser, and more capable than I ever thought possible. With the love of my committed and capable husband, and the friendship and support of the best team in 20/20, I believe that the future has never been closer than it is right now.

A quick explanation for those that are curious: the usual 20/20 flow is that you lose the weight you need to lose during Phase 1. The diet is much stricter during this time because it’s designed to help you lose weight and recognize/change bad habits; your calorie intake is about three quarters of what is recommended for a person at a healthy weight. Because losing weight happens when your body burns more calories through exercise and daily life than you take in through food and drink, that’s necessary – it wouldn’t be necessary or even beneficial for a normal-weighted person. However, this means that the calories you DO ingest have to be specific and very important; even if eating off plan once in awhile doesn’t affect your progress, it can affect your brain and make it harder for you to reject the habits and thinking that made you overweight to begin with. Even eating too much of the healthy stuff matters! Managing and balancing your diet, surviving tough but appropriate workouts for your skill level, and tackling the day-to-day mental and emotional issues that also strain your ability to reject bad habits are the core of 20/20, and what most people talk about when they tell you they’re in the program.

Phase 2 is a shorter (12-week) period designed to introduce you to maintaining your new body at your ideal weight. Up until now, you’ve been taught how to manage a calorie-restricted diet – which is no longer necessary once you’ve attained your goal weight! Now it’s time to learn how to re-adjust to a more normal diet with more leeway. That doesn’t mean you get to run out and eat a whole pizza like you used to – you still have to use what you’ve learned, or you’ll put all the weight right back on again. It means you’ll get to eat more of the healthy stuff you’ve grown used to, and be a LITTLE less paranoid about splurges. It’s a time to spread your wings a little and re-adjust to doing things that everyone does; eating out, spending time with friends and family that might involve food, and taking vacations away from your carefully-stocked kitchen where you know everything’s safe. You’re a seasoned veteran, but after so many months of restriction, even the slightest splurge may feel like you’re doing something wicked; your brain looks at one extra slice of pizza, and one whole pizza, with the same level of disgust. Letting your guard down enough to enjoy life, but not relapse into bad behavior, is key.

Phase 2 also begins to take the training wheels off. Up until now, you’ve been seeing your dietitian once a week for weigh-ins, and to troubleshoot any issues you’ve been having with your diet (cravings, mistakes/setbacks you’ve made, deprivation, frustration, lack of energy, etc.) In Phase 2, that changes to bi-weekly. You have the tools you need to cope with most issues on your own, and your dietitian is always an email or a phone call away if that’s not the case. Because your body is no longer trying to lose weight, workouts also drop back to two personal training sessions per week, down from three. You still have to work out on your own to maintain your new body, but you know how to do that now, and hopefully you’ve found a few things you enjoy to encourage you to keep going without a trainer standing over you. You’ve learned to work out, stretch, and use foam rollers all by yourself. As for counseling, you’re only required to attend a specific number of sessions while on the program. Once that number is complete, you can decide for yourself whether continuing on your own is useful or beneficial. Many folks in the program learn to view their counselors as their lifelines, and so continuing is pretty common; most of us have things we’d like to address or work on beyond the scope of the program.

For John and me, things will look a little bit different. Because of my diabetes and various hormone issues, my weight loss hasn’t been as rapid as the average client’s. (This was expected and understood by my team, long before I accepted it!) I’ve accomplished an amazing amount given my handicaps, but the fact remains that I still have weight to lose before I’m considered healthy. In John’s case, he also has some weight remaining to lose. Not only has he had his anemia to contend with, but he’s also working through a lot of general and social anxiety issues himself, and he’s had a lot less time to take himself apart and rebuild than I have over the years. Stress is a major component of weight loss and health, and mental stress is no exception; as he learns to let go of the things that have haunted him, the natural response to that is a reduction in weight loss. The ideal 1-2% of body weight that the program hopes for assumes that you don’t have outstanding issues; though we’ve done everything right, and we’ve been told that we are some of the greatest clients that our teams have ever worked with, we had more to battle than just our weight. We’ve expected this for some time, so it’s not really a surprise.

Fortunately, 20/20 has ways to help folks that are in our situation. It’s very easy to sign up to keep your personal trainer for the extra day that you’d lose otherwise, so both of us have done that – which means our workout schedule doesn’t change from what we were doing in Phase 1. We could do the same with our dietitian, though both of us feel secure enough in our knowledge right now that we haven’t looked into that. This has been the area that I have found to be the easiest, and even during Phase 1, I often found myself without a lot of questions to ask or a lot of issues to bring up. Again, I had a huge advantage here as a diabetic; I had far less trouble knowing WHAT to do for a healthy diet than I did getting my brain to a point where I could accept the restrictions without being miserable. I’d come a long way on that before the program even started, and I’ve been fascinated to see how just a few little tweaks from where I was have gone so far toward keeping me full, energetic, and cheerful. Learning just how much of obesity takes place in the brain (and trickles down to the rest of the body) has been the “a-ha!” moment I’ve been missing up until now, and now that I know it – I’m unstoppable.

(Side note: I want to talk about the relationship between obesity and brains more at another time, because it’s been the part that changed me the most, and the part that I think most people don’t understand about being overweight – but it’s LONG and hard to explain. As time goes on, it makes me angrier that this knowledge isn’t more common, and I’m willing to talk about it now, as long as others are willing to listen. Everyone believes that losing weight is a matter of willpower and making good choices, and while that is 100% true, it’s also a lot more complicated than people understand. If more folks understood the battle we face, they might not be so quick to judge. As with addiction or mental illnesses, “just” making the right choices and “just” saying no isn’t as easy as choosing what underwear to put on in the morning or what lipstick color to wear. Even getting to a point where you can make the right decisions without your brain and body punishing you because you dared to do something against your faulty notion of what is normal is a struggle that takes a long time and a LOT of love, grace, and patience to win. If you are overweight, or you have someone in your life that is, I can’t stress enough the importance of love first. Nobody fights this battle successfully without it, and the strain of feeling blamed and yet powerless weighs more than pounds. There’s a reason counseling is mandatory in this program.)

So for now, Phase 2 for John and me is going to be more similar to Phase 1 than it is for people who have attained their goal weight. We will continue to work out at the same pace we have been, under the tutelage of our awesome personal trainers. I’m thrilled for this, as Erin is my favorite of the people I’ve worked with, and I’m trying to figure out a way to stick with her even after the program is over. We’re both still seeing our counselors, so we are continuing to break down the mental and emotional barriers that still impact our happiness and success from time to time. I spend far less time fighting myself and my social anxiety than I used to, but I’m now trying to focus on the more day-to-day impacts, such as my fear of driving and my fear of using the phone. If I hope to be a good parent someday, I can’t keep letting these things hold me back! They’ll be mandatory. And as for the diet, we’ll be continuing to follow the lessons we’ve already learned, while simultaneously learning how to adjust once we’ve reached our goal weights. I’ll admit that it’s a little bit disheartening to have to learn this stuff and store it away for later use instead of learning it in the moment, but it can’t be helped.

That said, there are still plenty of changes we’re making now. We do eat out from time to time, at places we’ve found that work well with our diets. (Mediterranean/Greek restaurants always have salads; Asian foods most often contain meat and vegetables by default, etc.) We’ve eaten at friends’ houses without difficulty – we could have eaten more, but we were too cautious! Again, it’s a learning curve that we’ll get better at with time and practice. John eats at Google again on occasion, though it can still be hard for him at times. It’s easy to find healthy or mostly-healthy options out there for folks at normal weights, but it’s tough to find places that can work with the calorie-restricted weight-loss diet that we’re still maintaining. There’s a mental barrier one has to get past when it comes to asking for detailed modifications to one’s order, too. I hate having to ask for exceptions or substitutions, much less favors from people who are just there to run a restaurant and sell food the way they make it. We get a lot of mileage out of order-ahead options (Panera is GREAT for ordering ahead!) and delivery food options where you can order ahead through an app or website.

We even took a little vacation to celebrate our graduation, and it went beautifully! We were able to use the local Metropolitan Market (the Tacoma branch of the store we shop most frequently at near our house) to stock our hotel fridge with safe eating options, and I had my first planned true splurge at a restaurant since starting 20/20. My dietitian knew about it and we’d talked it over beforehand, so I went into it with a clear conscience and an eye toward watching how my body reacted to it. Fried chicken has been one of those things that I can’t figure out how to do well on a calorie-restricted diet, so that was my weapon of choice! I ordered chicken fingers, fries, and a salad with ranch. It was terrifying, if I can be honest! I would have ordered that without blinking an eye less than a year ago, and I’d still have been hungry enough afterward to order dessert and maybe a midnight pizza. This time, I savored every bite of that chicken, which was delicious and salty and chickeny like the stuff I remember eating from my childhood. I had ten fries for the novelty and stopped without thinking twice as I planned, because I didn’t need them all and they weren’t even that appealing. I’ve never been a fan of plain fries; seasoned is another thing entirely! The salad was great, as was the ranch. For the purposes of our current diet, extra fats are less damaging to progress than extra carbs, so the ranch was actually the healthiest (?!) option I had. Words I never thought I’d hear…

(Explanation time, lest I give the wrong idea: this isn’t like Atkins where fats are unrestricted and carbs are universally bad. Our intake of fats, even healthy fats, is the thing we’re restricting the most. That said, fat is one of the things that keeps our bodies from getting hungry because it sticks around in the system for so long. We need some of it, and if we’re going to eat more than the recommended limit of something, healthy fats are a good choice because they keep us fuller for longer. Protein is a better choice because of the same reason, but without the same drawbacks to overall health. Carbs are necessary for our bodies to have the energy we need, but they’re dangerous in excess because they spike blood sugar and upset the body’s balance, which is more likely to cause brain behaviors that help us gain weight, and they all break down into sugar in the body eventually, healthy or not. I always thought this was a uniquely diabetic thing, but it actually applies to all human bodies, diabetic or not.)

Afterward, when I looked at my food log and saw that I’d eaten nearly twice the daily recommended amount of fat for the day IN ONE MEAL, I spent about an hour trying not to hyperventilate. I’ve splurged before on different things, but I’ve always made it work within the restrictions without pushing myself beyond. This is the kind of thing they’ve been wanting us to do once in a blue moon, because people need to have lives, even while they’re on a diet. We’re not expected to be perfect all the time, but like I said – I’m more terrified of being hungry, angry, and frustrated than I am of losing control of my eating habits again by now. I don’t want to make it harder for me to keep up with my workouts, because I already have to bring 500% every day to make sure I’m not slacking off. We’ve been taught different strategies for making special splurge days work, and we just haven’t made it a priority because of how well we’ve taken to the restrictions. It’s easier and less mental strain to do what’s safe and normal instead of pushing beyond – how things change in six months!

And lo and behold – I still lost weight despite it all. You’ll see my final weight tally when I get to the big update post, but even my fried chicken splurge went fine. I didn’t lose control. I didn’t suddenly want 20 more plates of fried chicken, the way I wanted 20 more banana cream pie shakes early in the program. (I can even drink that now without incident – it was just the timing that wrecked me on that one.) I wasn’t excessively hungry or cranky or deprived during future meals. It was… just chicken. That I ate. And then moved on from. That shouldn’t be a big shocker, and it’s probably not for anyone that isn’t also overweight and struggling with this stuff, but for me, it’s HUGE. I know now that even if I’m not perfectly careful, and even if I sometimes eat something I shouldn’t, I have the power to control what happens next, and how I respond to it. I doubt I’ll have another craving like that for another six months or so, and that’s a good feeling. I’m so balanced at this point that I almost never have cravings anyway, and when I do, they’re not nearly as difficult to override as they used to be. A fleeting “man, remember that really good biscuit I had years ago?” is about all I have to contend with. There’s no guilt or deprivation, just acknowledgement.

Phew! This has gotten longer than I intended. Hopefully you all will find something here that’s useful! If not, hopefully it’s a good update to let you know that the Bruces continue to kick rear in the 20/20 program, and we’re now one step closer to the end of our weight loss journey. I’m still looking forward to seeing what the future brings… just as soon as I stop coughing and blowing my nose.

Sickness: 2. Amy: 0.


One Comment
  1. Carolyn

    Congratulations on completing Phase 1!! Way to go!! (pat-pat on the back, along with warm hugs!)
    Thank you for this post, Amy, another wonderful, and wonderfully informative, update. I look forward to your “End of Phase 1” post. But first, I look forward to hearing that you are again well and feeling strong!

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