Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thoughts on Fasting (Evaluation: Week 14)

Last Weigh In: Saturday, 30 November 2013

Weight Information -
  • Weight: 421.4 lbs
  • Weight Change This Week: -3.4 lbs
  • Weight Change To Date: -31.8 lbs
  • Weight Gauge: Grrrr (of frustration) There is no rhyme or reason to how much you'll lose
  • BMI: 66.0 (down from 66.5 last week)
  • Daily PPV: 71 (unchanged)
  • PPV Used this Week: 229 out of 497
  • PPV Not Used this Week: 268 (53.9%)
Current Goals -
  • Number Goals
    • Weight: 408 lbs (13.4 lbs away, 10% weight loss)
    • BMI: Reach a value below 40.0 (26.0 away)
    • PPV Not Used this Week: 149
  • Waist Goal: Lose one more available hole in belt (currently at 8)
  • Feel Good Goal: Set up the house. Get in the water with the kids
  • Physical Goal: Walk upright up the stairs of my house every time
  • The Y: Go to three aquatics classes and work on the bicycle machine once next week
  • Weight Watchers:
    • Make a meal plan with the PPV's worked out for two days
    • Use the paper tracker to record calculated points every day this week
    • Use 50 for my daily points instead of 71
    • Avoid using 49 weekly points. Daily points leave 21 available every day. That's 147 left over daily points available per week
    • Attend two meetings this week. Scheduled for Wednesday and Saturday
  • Overeaters Anonymous: 
    • Attend two meetings this week. Scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday
    • Face up to Step 1
    • Read to Chapter 3 of AA Big Book
  • Sticky Notes
    • Be active for 5 minutes out of every sedentary hour
    • Put down the fork and sip water between bites
    • Light a candle when carb cravings hit (or unpack boxes)
    • Kimkins onslaught this week
    • Get to Bed!
Additional Goals (monthly review) -
  • Lifetime Goal: I am losing weight so I can live, laugh, learn, and love longer while at my wife's side.
  • Long-term goals: I am losing weight so that I can...
    • Attend every kid's sealing (wedding): Horse (coming up in April), Asian Red Fox, Jaguar, Iguana, Lemur, and Quail
    • Bike, swim, walk, play, and otherwise be active with my kids and my future grand kids
    • Comfortably fit into a pair of pants that can be purchased at Wal-Mart, Shopko, JC Penney’s, etc.
    • Wrap my largest belt around me twice to be able to use it.
  • Intermediate goals: I am losing weight so I can...
    • Stand comfortably during lectures, seminars, etc and not feel extreme pain in my ankles, knees, hips, and arches.
    • Recover from long day of work in one good night’s sleep
    • Handle stresses better
    • Be more attractive to MBWM
  • Short-term goals: I am losing weight today so that I can...
    • Take charge of this part of my life today
    • Abstain from compulsive eating behaviors today
    • Have the warm fuzzies of today's successes available for tomorrow stresses and strains
  • Weight Watcher's Awards this week -
    • 5 lbs - passed another 5 pounds mark
  • Number Goals: 
    • Weight: Getting better, but still confused about quantity
    • BMI: Still quite far away but going in right direction
    • PPV Not Used this Week: Beat goal of 149 by 119. If I weren't as active in not eating all my available daily points, would I have even lost weight?
  • Waist Goal: Backed off by one loop, from 9 to 8. WooHoo!
  • Feel Good Goal: Still working on setting up house. An article my MBWM read suggested that putting even small portions of your house in order will reduce your stress. Need to schedule pool time.
  • Physical Goal: Still crawling up the stairs, especially while recovering from exercise or cleaning out the van or other chores or exertions.
  • The Y Goal: Missed one aquatics class that was not replaced. Missed a second class that was replaced with swimming laps. Still haven't learned to set up the bicycling machine.
  • WW Goal: 
    • Still need to make meal plan goal. 
    • 229 points consumed, 268 points unconsumed. That's 53.9% of my available points remained unused.
  • OA Goal: Working on attitude. Reading the AA Big Book.
  • Sticky Notes: Work well when paying attention to them. The most powerful of the effects comes from the setting down the fork between bites and sipping a drink of water.
    My attitude needs some adjusting on a few things. The first is that it really is okay for the weight loss to be less than spectacular. For the amount of effort going into selecting low carb/low fat options, the amount of work going into calculation/tracking points, for the painful consequences of the exercising I'm doing, I feel I should be losing more weight. So, this week, I am working on being happy with reasonable weight lost. Actually, 3.4 pounds is more than reasonable, it is wonderfully exceptional.

    The second item needing adjusting is figuring out my spiritual growth necessary to come out of the weight loss all the better for it. I balk some times at OA. I sometimes wonder if what I am saying at the meetings is in keeping with the spirit of OA or if it's subterfuge. This means I need to be prayerfully pursuing how to grow from here.

    The growth in the additional goals feel wonderful. And they all still ring true. Nothing new came to mind.

    Overall, my evaluation for this week is, Good Job! Silver Star! Missed the Gold Star by missing the meetings and exercise opportunities.

    Looking Forward:
    • Stay on program with Weight Watchers.
    • Stay on track with low carb / low fat food selection
    • Get back on track with Aquatics and learn to use the machines, paying attention to physical well-being to allow for extensions of exertion, such as swimming laps or taking the Deep Water Aquatics class.
    • Learn meditation for learning and strengthen meditation for relaxation and develop other techniques for handling stress.

    I have found the way (IV) because I lost weight this week. It is finally coming off.

    I have seized the road (CU) by maintaining my point tracking and food selection and pushing through on meetings and exercise. One of these days very soon I'm going to throttle Murphic Entropy with that road.

    I am enjoying the journey (FI) a little more, but still too focused on the numbers.

    Post Number: 57
    Review of Yesterday's Progress
         Daily Points Left: 35 of 71 (Goal: 21)
         Weekly Points Left: 49 of 49 (Goal: 49)
         Pedometer Reading: 7674
         Meetings Attended: Weight Watchers
         Exercise Completed: None Scheduled

    While there were many accomplishments today, I am most grateful for a clean van. Having a clean environment is important. Orderly locations are nicer to spend time in. I hope to be able to do more towards that end. My car was also cleaned, but not as thoroughly. Mine gets the intense attention next week. I look forward to the opportunity.

    I also appreciate the opportunity to think things through when I write these blog entries. It has kept so many things in the forefront of my mind while going through my day. I'm still meditating on turning the face of serenity to the warmth of the sun. And I enjoy the chance to practice my writing skills. Hopefully, deeper topics will be better expressed more eloquently with time and practice. And I'd like to think that I'm going to not only learn from my recorded efforts, but I will deepen my understanding as I review them. There are so many opportunities that are open for my continued growth.

    Fasting may be Slow But the Powerful Consequences are Valuable

    As a form of spiritual growth, I am fasting today. Since I have mentioned it before but haven't managed to explain it, I thought I would describe the different forms of fasting I use.

    I have researched the fast as described in several cultures. The first type of fast is what I call the supernatural fast. While the supernatural fast has presented itself in several different scriptures, I know it best from Christian scriptures. Both Moses and Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. While the number 40 is a metaphor in Jewish scriptures for "enough time to complete the purpose of the event," I do believe that these fasts were exceptional in length; length so great that without the internal power that comes from divine sources mere mortals like myself cannot accomplish this type of fast.

    A fast that can be accomplished comes of the natural type. I have practiced three forms of natural fasting: the short fast, the standard fast, and the extended fast. For all three of these forms of the natural fast, the start of the process is the same. I ponder and meditate on the divine use of power that will best assist my family. In this case, use "family" to refer to anything from my immediate family, through my extended family and church family, to the communal family that involves anyone that is a son or daughter of God, which is everyone, of course. I pick a topic, problem, improvement, or event that I would like some additional assistance with from the divine. This is the first step.

    In the second step, I then use prayer to dedicate my fast. Prayer is very powerful. It is a skill and a habit I highly recommend. In this dedicatory prayer, I express what it is I am seeking from the fast. I offer my thanks for the knowledge I have for the fast. I offer my thanks for the strength, knowledge, and other blessings I have received and know I can receive again from the fast. I ask for assistance in continued meditation on the topic so I can be influenced in the direction that is most beneficial. This second step is of prime importance. It acknowledges the power of the divine in your life. It acknowledges that there is something more powerful than you that can influence your life. And it acknowledges, if you are humble, that you are willing to be taught and guided.

    To experience growth, what happens next depends on the type of fast I have chosen. In the case of the short fast, I will go without food or water for two meals over 24 hours. While I am strict about the food, water being so vital is not completely banned. It already shows up in taking medicine and supplements and when brushing teeth. And if one of my kids drinks some water during their fast, I ask them to keep it small. We fast as a family the first Sunday of every month in conjunction with the rest of my church. Not everyone in my family can fast. MBWM has health issues not conducive to fasting. Instead of fasting from food, she fasts from something else.* And a few of my kids are too young, most notably Quail and Lemur. Kids that are not old enough for a full fast, I ask to fast for one meal. In Jaguar's case, she fasts from dinner but breaks her fast at break-fast. Since she is an early riser, she does quite well. Iguana and Asian Red Fox are asked to complete a full fast. Because of this, I have changed our fasting from the standard fast of skipping breakfast and lunch to skipping dinner and breakfast. This means that they are asleep for a large portion of the middle rather than a large portion of the beginning. This also means that a large portion of the tail end of the fast is spent in church. This additionally means that as soon as we are home from church, we break our fast. This seems to work out well. And should someone, including myself, eat some food without thinking, I ask them to rededicate their fast and continue from there.
    *From MBWM: "When I was 15 I discovered I had developed hypoglycemia (opposite of hyperglycemia or diabetes). This means that I now had to eat some protein every 2-3 hours or risk passing out and eventually seizures, etc. So, since I could no longer fast from food and I still desired to participate in fasting I counselled with my Bishop and he said to choose something else that I valued or did a lot of and fast from that for 24 hours. As a teenager, I chose fasting from television. When that became fairly easy and no longer a sacrifice I switched to all media (tv, radio, tape player, computer, etc.). After a few years that too was no longer difficult. So I had to choose a new sacrifice. I pondered this for a long while as I searched for something that I did or used that would be safe to give up. I had heard about Thomas Jefferson and his pocket cards. He chose personal vices that were good to get rid of (like smoking, drinking, swearing, losing his temper, etc, written as gluttony, temperance, greed, etc.) and wrote them down on cards that he kept in his pocket. Each week he would choose a card and give up that vice for the week. Unfortunately, the next week when he chose a new vice, he'd go back to the one he had just spent a week without. I thought fasting from negative behaviors was a great idea, since in order to be more like my Heavenly Father I will need to eradicate my temper. Thus my new sacrifice became anger. When I fast, I work really hard on not losing my temper for 24 hours. (Before I had children this was fairly easy so I lengthened it to 48 hours. I'm back to having a hard time not yelling or thinking negative thoughts for just 24 hours.) I hope I can eventually get to the point where it is rare that my temper flares and then I'll need to choose a new sacrifice. I look forward to that day with eagerness!  :-)

    With the food concerns out of the way, the primary effort of the person fasting comes into play. Having dedicated the fast, the requests in the dedicatory prayer need to be pondered and discussed. If a diary is at hand, thoughts and feelings about the topic must be recorded. Researching the topic or ideas related to the topic to better understand and mold your thoughts and feelings is important as well. Inspirational music and reading material are an incredible boost to my success during fasting. When hunger (cravings really) arrive, I offer a prayer of thanks for the knowledge I have that the reward of the fast is more powerful than the simple, fleeting pleasure eating one meal provides. I ask for more strength to diligently pursue the purpose of the fast. And almost without fail, the craving passes. If I am not in a well-centered place spiritually, if I can tell I'm only starving myself, not truly fasting, I have ended a fast early and restarted it the next day. It is important that a fast maintain and strengthen the spiritual within. A struggle with the divine means something needs to be put in its proper place first. But there still needs to be a sense of commitment to the fast, which is why I turn around and fast the next day.

    Picking the day of the fast is very important. Fasting during or immediately before a strenuous event is poor planning and potentially disastrous to the event, the fast, or my well-being. The strenuous event need not be physically strenuous. It can be emotionally, mentally, or spiritually strenuous. If I know the event is coming, then I fast several days ahead of it. I then use prayer and meditation to extend the feelings from the fast into the event.

    The way the fast is ended is crucial in extending those thoughts and feelings that inspired me during the fast. A prayer is used to close out the fast. And that's what I mean when I speak of breaking my fast. As my heart is raised to the divine in benediction, I offer a prayer of thanksgiving more than the commencement of eating that brings about the breaking of the fast. This provides me with the opportunity to extend the inspiration I received during the fast not only into the next few hours or days, but also into the event or struggle while it is happening.

    And because there can be so many events, issues, and struggles needing my attention, I fast more than just the once each month prescribed by my church. The power of the short fast is made apparent in my life nearly every time I use it. And it is the easiest fast to perform, being the least intrusive. The next, more intrusive form of the fast is what I call the standard fast. In the standard fast, there are many aspects in common with the short fast. The start and stop times are specific. The fast starts with an invocation and ends with a benediction. A specific topic is chosen to provide focus. No food is consumed throughout the fast. The first primary difference is that the standard fast is 2 to 4 days, thus extending it beyond the short fast. The second primary difference is that there is no limitations on the amount of water. And it is specifically water that I allow myself, not generic drinks. Drinks might introduce problems into my life. Sodium induces greater thirst. Carbohydrates induce hunger. Proteins activate your digestive system. Even things like caramel coloring cause your body to slow down the release of fats making your feel hungrier than you really are. Some people allow themselves unsweetened herbal teas. Since I am prone to cravings, I limit myself to no more than one per day. Only pure water is consumed at will.

    Since the standard fast consumes more time, it is important that there be even less intrusion by life into my fast. This requires greater planning. I simplify all activities that are strenuous, especially physical activities. I keep inspirational reading around to occupy my thoughts. If it is in keeping with my purpose for the fast, so much the better. In the case of the standard fast, cravings will turn to hunger. Cravings are sometimes harder to handle because there is a mental, physical, and sometimes emotional desire behind them. When the cravings settle down and the hunger sets in, I find life a little easier. I would compare it to ignoring the pain when you are first cut to ignoring the pain a few days later. The sudden burst of pain let's me know my body needs attention. But a few days later, the pain has become familiar. I just make a few minor adjustments to avoid touching, pressing, or otherwise exacerbating the wound, and I will be okay. Same with the hunger. It's becomes a familiar background noise that I can ignore.

    What becomes difficult to ignore are the combinations of hunger and cravings. These are trickier because the cravings are trying to convince you that the hunger is right. It's a persuasion, sometime subtle, sometimes not, that needs direct attention. I usually attend to that by prayer followed by inspirational music and reading material. I have heard other people say that they brush their teeth during a fast to assist them through it. It hasn't worked for me. Since I have a cough that is a side effect of my lisinopril (blood pressure medication), I allow myself sugar-free cough drops sparingly. These do help me through my fasting by giving me some flavor. And again, I allow the occasional unsweetened herbal tea. I haven't tried stevia as a sweetener during a fast mostly because I don't want to mess around with what works.

    What works for an extended fast is a little different. An extended fast is 3 to 7 days. I don't recommend anything longer than 7 days without extensive practice. For myself, 7 days is not yet obtainable. In the case of the extended fast, unsweetened herbal teas once a day is standard for me, usually in the morning. In the evening, I consume a simple vegetable broth. I do not get prepackaged vegetable broths because it always contains added sodium, which you should avoid while fasting, and the wrong veggies. In keeping with Jewish tradition, cross-cultural readings, and scientific research, the vegetable broth serves best when it is a clear broth. The vegetable part means no meat broths because they add too much protein into the digestive track and get it geared up for very little to digest. Clear means that the juice cooked out of the vegetable doesn't create a cloudy broth. This means tomatoes are out. Potatoes are also out. Onions, leeks, celery, peppers, and other vegetables are in. I fine dice them and put them in simmering water. Several articles I've read suggested putting the diced veggies in a cheese cloth bag or something similar. I find that my broth comes out just fine without the bag and then strain the veggies through a fine mesh colander. Since I am planning well in advance for an extended fast, I use a crock pot to cook the veggies. I limit myself to one cup of tea in the morning and one cup of broth in the evening. The purpose of these drinks is to make sustaining life a little easier. It is not to become satiated with the amount of food nor satisfied with the flavor of the food. Hunger and cravings will continue. The nice thing is that cravings left unfulfilled become weaker. The problem that arises is that genuine hunger becomes stronger. That is ultimately why I cannot reach more than 5 to 5 and a half days. The growl of hunger becomes a little too all-consuming and I lose my ability to concentrate on the purpose of the fast. With time, I expect it will become easier, but I am not worrying about the strenuous process of lengthening my fasts.

    While strenuous activities are minimized while fasting, I try to keep things as normal and unchanged as possible. I will cook for those that aren't fasting. I keep to normal routines like showering, scripture study, cleaning around the house, and the like. I will even fast while I have a job if I feel the fast won't interfere with my job. Even while teaching at ITT, I fasted several times. A couple of times, my students had brought in treats and I excused myself from eating them because I was fasting. I don't announce I am fasting, but I don't hide the fact either.

    And I don't hide my preparations either. In the case of the short fast, my preparations are entirely spiritual, prayer, research, mediation, reading, and so forth. For the extended fast, preparations include the making of the broth as well as the spiritual preparations. For the standard fast and the extended fast, part of the preparations also include slowly decreasing my food intake. I cut out proteins two days before the fast. I cut out fats the day before the fast. I am basically on a simple, vegetarian diet the day ahead of the fast. This physical preparation helps to emphasize the mental and spiritual preparations. As the process of preparation continues, it becomes easier and easier to enter into the mood and feelings of the fast. I have heard that people that fast frequently lose the recognition of hunger. While some fasts have been easier than others, I have always been hungry through the process. I just have to choose to focus on the higher purpose behind the fast. The preparations make going into the fast easier.

    Coming out of the fast is also important. In the case of the standard fast or the extended fast, I reverse the steps that I took to enter into the fast. Simple vegetables for one day. Add in fats the next day in small quantities. Add in proteins the day after that. The most important part of the process of coming out of the fast is the prayer of gratitude that marks the official end of the fast. With that end, eating commences. My inclination is to eat everything in site, of course. But a gradual return is necessary to both honor the fast and avoid hurting the body. Even in the case of the short fast, the first meal, while not limited in options is limited in quantity. And that makes it particularly difficult for kids learning to end the fast.

    While fasting can bring out changes that include beginnings and endings, it needs to be used in a manner in keeping with the purpose of fasting- spiritual growth by denying the mortal and seeking the divine. For example, do not fast thinking it is a way to lose weight. The body is very clingy of its fat. Fasting for the strength to lose weight is good. Fasting as a way to lose weight won't work. Fasting will help with changing your attitude to improve some aspect of your life. It won't actually change your life, except, perhaps, while you are in the middle of your fast.

    As I write this, I am no longer in the middle of my fasting. I am nearing the end. This fast was dedicated to MBWM's mother. She is balking at an upcoming transition where her cooperation is vital. As a family, we are fasting for a change of heart. In my case, I prayerfully hope that she not only accepts the new arrangements but ends up delighting in them.

    While I have delighted in speaking of spiritually divine topics, and these things have very specific meaning in my life, any one person's relationship with the divine can master fasting. That is why fasting is described in so many cultures and religions. It's also why there is no worldly version of fasting. That is just starvation and no one willingly chooses to starve themselves without a purpose.

    Part of my purpose in learning to fast comes from my own spiritual explorations. I've mentioned a few times the Jewish traditions in fasting. Because my father is Jewish, I studied the Jewish faith to see if that is where I wanted to expend my spiritual energies. I researched and attended many different faiths to determine where I felt I belonged in my relationship with God. And among the things I explored along the way were topics like fasting, meditation, prayer, service, and much more. Some are of a more religious nature such as fasting and prayer. Some don't have to be spiritual at all, like meditation and service. But all these things work together to improve me, making my bad habits good and my good habits better.

    I hope that you will avail yourself of a fast.

    Yours in the gratitude of growth,


    P.S.: What do you remember most about Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving serves as a scrapbook of food.

    Weight Watchers, 30 November 2013

    Class lost 29.6 pounds over Thanksgiving.

    Past topics included tracking, routines, and spaces. To add more to the structure necessary for weight loss success, learning about lists.

    Why make a "Why-to" list before making a "how-to" list?
    • Buy into the cause
    • Clean up house -> less stress -> help lose weight
    How does increasing want-power help you increase your will power?

    Why do you want to lose weight? Losing list - list of reasons why you want to lose weight. Frequently, the first 15 to 20 items on the list are superficial
    • Setting a winning goal
    • Write it out in a positive way
    • The drive to not get back to the starting point (can be used to motivate through plateaus)
    • Don't want to gain the weight back
    Think about why you might not want to lose weight. Need to address these.
    • It's more work
    • Additional stresses or strains
    • Hard to acknowledge success when at a plateau (unintentional maintenance)
    Look beyond obvious reasons. For every reason mentioned, ask "what does that get me?" For every new reason, ask the question again. And again, and again, and again. Use this technique to drive down to the deeper, more important reasons. There is no end to this exercise.
    • Don't want to be an invalid to my husband -> happier together -> and so on
    • Selfish to pick food over health
    • Don't want to be a burden on my kids like my parents are because of their poor eating habits
    • Hard to be more successful than other people
    • Don't feel worthy
    Use your list to motivate. Post it around your house so you can see it.

    Assigned change for this week, keep this list with you all this month.

    Fix these things by -
    • Keep telling yourself you are worth it
    • Celebrate the little successes but not with food
    • Reward ourselves
    • Be happy with where you are
    Make the list longer.

    Why do you want to lose weight and keep it off? Why do you feel comfortable with current weight? Pick top 2 and focus on those.

    Favorite Comment: Mom asked about the money spent on Weight Watchers. Replied, I'm sure to save thousands of dollars in medications because of better health.

    Inspirational quote: The difference between TRY and TRIUMPH is just a little UMPH - Marvin Phillips

    Robin challenged us to keep the room filled up through all of December.

    At one point, Robin asked us to write down our reasons for wanting to lose weight and to carry them around with us for the month. My reasons are on my phone because they are listed every month in my additional goals. MBWM has agreed to let me share hers.

    • Feel better
    • To live longer and better than my parents
    • Fit into my clothes better
    • To have more energy
    • To handle stress better
    • To enjoy my stats (#'s)
    • As I lose physical weight I hope to lose emotional burdens and mental weight
    • To be more physically independent
    • I want to feel as organized as I look (outside)
    • I don't want to be a burden on my children in my "younger" old age
    • Because I am worth my own attention and putting myself on my own to-do list
    Robin also asked us to write down reasons not to lose weight. Here is what MBWM wrote:
    • Laziness - It's hard work and I really don't have a lot of energy
    • Fear - If I feel better more will be expected of and exacted from me
    • I'm stubborn, I don't like to change
    • Selfishness - I don't like paying attention to what I eat
    My reasons to not lose weight are:
    • I am lazy. I like not deciding what to eat. Grab and go, straight to the mouth
    • Enjoy eating whatever food I want to eat. Burger, onion rings, and shake is 2000 calories? Yummy.
    • Fear of pain. Changes involve physical, mental, and emotional pain. I have that anyway. Why should I choose to add more?
    • Fear of failure. Why bother losing the weight when it's all too likely to come back. Save myself the time, energy, money, and suffering and just order the Big Mac, Medium Fry, and Water. That will placate my fears while justifying my eating by not maxing out the possible calories.

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