Posted in Omada

Omada – Week 4

Health is complicated.

It would be lovely if there were a formula for health we could be taught and memorize and apply every day. But, every day is different. Every body is different. Every life has a different set of tools. Every life has a different set of challenges. And those tools and challenges are not constant. Life is fluid. Health, also, is fluid.

I’m nearly 49 years old. I should know by now that health is complicated, that nutrition and exercise are wrapped up in history and emotions, that most of us have lead-weight-backpacks of shame and insecurities regarding food, sleep, work, activity, and worth. I really should know that there is no magic formula for this part of life.

And yet…

And yet, I started the Omada program thinking “this’ll be it!” It’s different than the rest.

  • It’s 4 months long.
  • It’s a personal coach.
  • It’s a small group of people cheering each other on.
  • It’s not a formula for drastic change; it’s noticing patterns and shifting them toward healthier ones.

Turns out all those things are true about Omada…and it’s still not the magic formula.

Because there isn’t one, I suppose.

Here are some bummer things about Omada: (Promise you’ll read this list only if you read the list below it! That’s only fair.)

  • My group disappeared. There were 20 of us on the “roll sheet” at the beginning. It appears some of them never really checked in on the first day at all, so then we were down to maybe a dozen. Then, within the first week, it seemed we were down to 4 or 5 of us who ever posted a question – or answered a question others posted. I had hoped we would be a group of folks cheering each other on, offering ideas we’ve tried, links to helpful resources. That didn’t happen. And that’s a bummer.
  • Some of the data doesn’t add up on the Omada page. On the weigh-in page, it’ll tell me that I’m 52% of the way to my goal of weight loss, when simple math tells me I’m not that far along. Actually, I WAS that far along, then I gained some weight back. Seems weird that something that simple shouldn’t be up-to-date every day…especially because it’s a program that’s data driven, focusing on patterns and such. Inaccurate data is a bummer.
  • I was hoping the coach and the lessons would be helping me take a look at patterns: what time of day I tend to snack…or WHY I tend to snack…or what kinds of snacks I tend to reach for. But, that hasn’t happened. There is no section for recording how you feel when you are eating…or even to record something like, “I really wanted a big piece of chocolate cake and a huge glass of milk when I was at the birthday party, but instead I had a couple of Hershey’s kisses from the bowl on the table. So, while I’m recording that I ate chocolate, it’s actually a big win for me as far as making choices goes.” Those feelings and choices matter, but there is no way for the coach to know that about you…so there is no way for her (mine is a woman) to know she could cheer you on for eating Hershey’s kisses that day. That’s a bummer.
  • Most of the lessons and articles shared are not news. We who have joined Omada have likely read and read and read articles about:
    • food substitution (Eat This, Not That!),
    • managing cravings (Check in without yourself about why you are eating. Are you bored? Write a letter or call a friend instead of reaching for potato chips.),
    • not all carbs are bad (Fresh fruits and veggies count as carbs, but they are not the same as Wonder Bread.)

    These articles are not a bummer. They are good stuff, but I thought since Omada billed itself as helping us examine patterns and taking small steps toward healthier ones, I thought I might learn something more about human nature and choice-making and motivation and such. So, whether that’s fair or not, it’s a bit of a bummer.

Here are some great things about Omada: (You promised you’d read this list, too!)

  • My coach is incredibly patient, kind, and encouraging. I wrote her a long letter about a frustration I was having with the program – and some of the ways I was managing my health that were not showing up on the way we track things in Omada – and she was supportive of my choices and asked if there were any other ways she could support me. She just works within this system/app/website, so for all I know, she would manage things differently if she ran the place! Having an understanding and encouraging coach is a great thing! (Thanks, Omada!)
  • Some of the lessons have had a brand new idea for me to chew on. So, I have to assume that they have had the same for others. Just because I’ve read the Eat This, Not That kind of articles one million times doesn’t mean that everyone has…or they may have read it before but needed to read it again.
    • Just yesterday, in the “Managing Cravings” article we read, they suggested planning some indulgences on the regular. Maybe every Wednesday, you have your favorite meatball sub for lunch with your friends. Maybe Thursday night Must See TV on your sofa includes a bowl of ice cream. Making a decision ahead of time that you will indulge weekly means not having to feel guilty when you are actually enjoying the food and experience. I have never thought of that before. I’m going to try it. And now, I’m enjoying deciding what it will be, when it will be, with whom it will be. Savory or sweet? Alone on my sofa or out with friends? Here’s a very workable new pattern that may just form in my nutritional life. (Thanks, Omada!)
    • I’ve read articles about the Mason Jar Salads many times. I’ve watched YouTube videos about it, too. I own mason jars. I like salads. I really like menus that include the prep/mess on one day…and food for the week. For some reason, when I read the Omada article about Mason Jar Salads and clicked the link to the videos, it meant something to me this time. I made three salads. Ate them over the next four days. They were fresh and fantastic (not the avocado – yes! I tossed it in lemon juice, first!). I’ve done that for the last three weeks. Am I establishing a new pattern? (Thanks, Omada!)

So, here’s the bottom line for me regarding Omada:

  1. My church has partnered with this company to try to help us be healthier. I intend to honor that by seeing this through, and frankly, I’m happy to offer them feedback about this thing for which they have surely paid plenty of dollars to offer it to thousands of us.
  2. If this free program can offer me small bites of new information about nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress, then I’m in. I will set aside my longing to have everything make sense in a lovely and easy to digest chart with some clean bullet points (see format of this blog post), and I’ll take the little scraps of insight I find here at Omada. I’ll stitch them to the other scraps I’ve gathered along the way and create the quilt of Jennifer’s Health. It is not one-size-fits-all, and it is a bit crazy with no discernable formula. But, that’s really all we’ve got, now, isn’t it?
  3. The Omada program attends to four major areas of health: nutrition, activity, sleep, and stress. We began with nutrition. And it may be the one area I’ve spent the most time reading about (and feeling shame about) and practicing and failing in my lifetime. And even in this realm, I’ve learned some things. So, what might Omada have in store for me regarding activity, sleep, and stress? Even if there are just a few things from each area of health that I bring forward with me after the 4 months – this is a huge win for this 49 year old who really wants to manage her own health from here on out…rather than just keep floating along not managing it, shocked at her arthritis and high triglycerides and that the doctor wants her to take a statin for cholesterol. So, I’m looking forward to what comes next.
  4. I think there’s a lesson in humility here in the Omada program. I tend to think I know everything, and I’m right about stuff. So, when something doesn’t look or feel familiar, I can easily dismiss it. And I’ve done plenty of that in the last month. Then I take stock of things I’ve learned about myself, and I see I might just not have known everything before the program. Go figure.

I wish you the sweetest of peace as you attend to your health. I pray you are gentle with you as you examine the reasons and ways you nourish yourself. I hope the tenderness you offer others is also something on which you can draw for your own beautiful self.

Posted in Whole 30

Ridiculous and Authentic

All my adult life, I have read articles about health, weight loss, exercise, changing your habits, and whatever else might apply to my health. Loads of those articles are written by people who have made significant changes in their lives, and nearly all of them started out pretty sure they would never be able to change.

They say ridiculous things like: “I just have a slice of sweet watermelon if I’m craving a piece of cake,” and “If I am craving something crunchy, instead of chips, I just eat a handful of baby carrots!”

Oh, I think when I was younger, I thought maybe those things would work. But, then I bought a bag of baby carrots…and they were nothing like chips. Not for one second or in any way at all were they like chips. They tasted like water…and left my fingers wet. You know what chips do? They taste like salt and fat…and they leave my fingers orange (because the two best chips ever are Doritos and Cheetos). Those carrots were pretty good dipped in ranch, but then I learned that for all the calories I was spending on ranch, I could just eat the chips!

I have also read this sentence just shy of one million times: “When I stopped eating refined sugar, my taste buds adjusted, and fruit was decadently sweet enough to satisfy my sugar cravings; I don’t even crave my evening bowl of ice cream anymore.”

While I believed them that drastically reducing their sugar intake would give their taste buds a break from the ever-present sweetness of sodas and candy and other sugary things – and make less sweet things taste sweeter, I just didn’t believe that they were being authentic about not craving ice cream. Rather, I thought they were being disciplined.

Well, here are the ridiculous and authentic things I have uttered this week, causing my daughter, Sage, to call me out as “one of those people who say those things.”

  • Upon receiving the apple juice box that came with my hamburger happy meal, I said with delight, “Oh! This is going to be like drinking a soda!” When nearly all you drink is water (and unsweetened tea), apple juice is super sweet. It’s true. My taste buds will tell you it’s true. I’ll try not to tell you, though…unless you have clicked on this blog, then I’ll tell you because we are talking about this Whole 30 journey. But, if I’m at a fast food joint with you, I will not tell you that apple juice is just as good as soda. I promise.
  • While I was doing paperwork and munching on pistachios, I said, “Geez. These are so good. These salt and pepper ones are like eating chips!” To which Sage said, “Liar.” And through my laughter, I said, “No really! You have to taste the salt and pepper ones!” And she said, “Mom. I believe you that they are good. I do not believe you that it’s like you are eating potato chips.” You, Gentle Reader, don’t have to believe me about how perfectly satisfying these particular pistachios are. Drive yourself to Costco and pick up a bag. The bag is huge – which is good because you will eat a lot of them. And you might think they are as good as chips!
  • This afternoon, I stood at the kitchen counter, eating cherries and spitting the seeds into the compost bowl, and thought, “These are so delicious! They are sweet and perfect…and more addicting than candy.” I was only talking to myself. I was not being silly or even having a conversation with Sage. It was an authentic thought: these cherries are better than candy.

So, here’s the thing. Until you experience some things, they are only talk. Until you own them yourself, they lie beyond what you can imagine is true. That’s why it was so annoying to me when people said or wrote things like this.

Before I did Whole 30 – and the subsequent weeks of experimentation – I was absolutely sure I would be unable to quit sugar. (I’m not quitting sugar altogether, but that’s another conversation.) I couldn’t really even picture it. The first thing I did every morning was make a big mug of tea with a huge scoop of sweetened condensed milk in it. The first thing I did was give my tongue some (a lot of) sugar. And I did not stop refueling my sugar tank until I went to bed. So, hearing someone say that natural things like fruit can meet our physical need for sweet things…I guess it made me feel weak, like I was broken somehow, with no control over my sugar consumption.

So, I made lots of jokes about it.

But, in my gut I knew those jokes were stand-ins for courage.

And THAT’S what I think Whole 30 takes. Courage.

What if those people who annoyed me with their watermelon-instead-of-cake talk were actually bearing witness to something I needed to hear? What if even while I was rolling my eyes at them, my ears were hearing some things 48 and I would need down the road? What if those people I secretly (or not so secretly) judged as ridiculous were just being authentic in ways that would bring me courage someday down the line?

So, maybe the question is: How does one find the balance between being that preachy person who just sounds like she is bragging…and bearing witness to a new truth you didn’t know you had the courage to learn?

Posted in Whole 30

Bouncing Around – Post Whole 30

It’s about a month since I finished Whole 30.

I continue to learn a lot about my body, since I decided that my reintroduction process would be lengthy. Roughly, it has looked like this:

5 days of Whole 30 + Dairy: I didn’t have any health troubles with dairy. It didn’t affect my sleep, my arthritis, nor did I have any of those lactose intolerance symptoms people often report.

…then…

5 days of Whole 30 + Grains: My sleep and arthritis seemed to be fine, and I didn’t have any of the gluten intolerance symptoms.

…then…

5 days of Whole 30 + Sugar: BAM! Had one sleepless night and some swelling in my hands. Also discovered that I have very little power to be consume sugar in moderation.

Give me a little…I’ll take more, please. I paid close attention to how I use sugar. My habit has been to use a heaping teaspoon of sugar in my large cup of tea. And not having used sugar in my tea for 40 days, it was striking to me when I scooped up all that sugar on my spoon. It occurred to me that I have no idea how much sugar that is, so I measured it. And it’s easily 2 teaspoons, but nearly a tablespoon. Huh. Learning, learning, always learning.

…then…

5 days of Whole 30 + Nothin’: Just back on the Whole 30 program to reset before I did some more experimentation. In those 15 days of dairy, grains, and sugar, I gained back nearly all the weight I had lost. That was super disheartening, but it was a great lesson. There is no way that I ate thousands and thousands of extra calories that would add up to 7 pounds of gained weight. But, it’s entirely possible probable that those foods caused inflammation and water retention which accounted for most of the weight gain. This was proven when I lost all the weight again during 5 days of pure Whole 30. The only way I lost all that weight was if it was water and inflammation.

 

…then…

5 days of Whole 30 + Sugar 2.0: Tried sugar again (without dairy or grains, so no ice cream or cookies – just hard candies and sugar in my tea and sugar added to the fruit sorbet I made…sigh…and some soda). My sleep was affected, and my hands hurt. It also seemed I had more headaches, but I didn’t really keep notes on that, so I’m not sure.

So, my understanding is that our bodies process carbs (grains) into sugars, also. Therefore, having pinpointed regular sugar as an inflammation trigger, I’m wondering about grains. So, I’m now in the middle of…

5 days of Whole 30 + Grains 2.0: So far, I’ve had some sushi which has rice in it and croutons on my otherwise Whole 30 salad. I think I’ll have a sandwich for dinner with the whole wheat bread I bought. I’m trying hard to only add grains, not sugar…so nearly all cereals are out, and I don’t like oatmeal without some brown sugar in it, so that doesn’t really work. I’m trying to find a nutritional pattern that I can actually enjoy. And I won’t enjoy oatmeal without sugar…at least not now, but my tastes are changing.