How I lost 9.2 pounds in 27 days (and my momentous mindset shift)

Picture of Dr. Jen Kerns

Dr. Jen Kerns

You know by now that I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with sugar. I know intellectually that it leads to weight gain, insulin resistance, and a higher risk of dementia. But sweets have been my go-to for decades, indeed since I was a toddler, for creating pleasure and alleviating pain. And my primitive brain has intermittently rebelled against my grand plans to eliminate it from my life. I’ll go through a period of time abstaining from sweets and added sugar, and then let it back into my life on a whim (usually because of some occasion like a birthday or holiday), and that has historically opened the floodgates and led to lots of overeating, occasional binges, and weight gain of 10-15 pounds over a few months. Then I decide enough is enough and go back off sugar again, and the weight comes off again.

During these times when I’ve been “off” sugar, I’ve always thought of it as my drug. Thought of myself as an addict. Worried that I couldn’t control myself around sweets, and felt like I was white knuckling to stay on track and avoid my secret (or now, not so secret!) pleasure. I read the research and a few books on food addiction and toyed with the idea of abstinence. Not temporary abstinence, but permanent abstinence. Those thoughts always felt terrible, like I’d be avoiding sweets because I couldn’t control myself. It felt like resistance. And I am here to tell you: “that which we resist, persists.”

Over the holidays (and the whole month of January) my primitive brain had me overeating sweets (MilkBar made a pretty penny off me) and sugar-sweetened drinks (matcha lattes, cocktails) using any excuse it could find: Christmas, my Jan 25 birthday, my intuitive eating experiment and lack of food rules. As you know, I felt totally out of control, had tons of mind drama and mental anguish about that lack of control (even as I ate more cookies), and finally stopped the madness when the scale topped 160, which was 15 pounds heavier than I’d been before Thanksgiving. I gave up sugar on February 1.

Interestingly, instead of focusing a lot on how deprived I felt in giving up my illicit lover, I immediately focused on my Alzheimer’s prevention efforts. If you read last week’s blog post, you know that this involved (in part) me working toward improving my sleep quantity and quality, and incorporating a form of intermittent fasting called Time Restricted Eating, or TRE (in my specific case, fasting for 3 hours before bed and ultimately 14+ hours overnight). I chose this particular fasting regimen based on the research of Dr. Dale Bredesen and Dr. Richard Isaacson, two of the foremost researchers and clinicians in the Alzheimer’s prevention space. (In fact, I’m on the waiting list to see Dr. Isaacson in his Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Cornell later this year!)

The combination of removing sugar from my diet and giving my poor brain some time to readjust without it allowed the desire to die down pretty quickly. I had very few cravings for sweets even in the early days, mostly because my thoughts about it had changed. Instead of thinking about how pleasurable it was and how deprived I felt without it, I felt relief and freedom in choosing not to have it because the mental anguish immediately disappeared, as did my bloated stomach, heartburn, and poor sleep. Instead of thinking I was deprived from sugar and forcing myself to avoid it against my will, I felt like I was actively choosing to eat healthfully without sugar because it felt good. The peace I felt was a reward in itself, and I found the peace to be more rewarding than the sugar. I don’t think I could’ve come to this mindset shift had I not had a lot of drama and weight gain in the preceding months along with plenty of mindful attention to how shitty I felt on the sugar train. I developed embodied disenchantment with sugar, as Dr. Jud Brewer would say, which I felt in my gut and which allowed me to effortlessly step away from it into a new way of being. No resistance required.

Right now, I have no interest in eating sweets again, because where I am right now feels good. And peaceful.  And I like seeing the scale drift downward, too. Down 9.2 pounds in 27 days, to be exact. I haven’t counted calories. I’ve continued my daily exercise, which hasn’t changed (30-40 min elliptical, sometimes walking 2 miles outdoors, and PT exercises for my bad back). I’ve eliminated flour and added sugar from my diet (which is what I’ve been preaching here on my blog for more than a year but only variably sticking with myself). I’ve also eliminated alcohol, because I usually take mine in the form of sugar-sweetened cocktails, and because it adversely affects my sleep. I’ve been eating a largely plant-based diet with occasional salmon or poultry thrown in, lots of veggies and fruits, and a square or two of 88% chocolate every day. I haven’t been afraid of fat, eating pistachios and almonds, seeds on salads, and plenty of extra virgin olive oil. I’ve been consuming my calories before 6pm every evening and waiting until at least 8am to have my cold brew decaf with Nutpods (only having non-caloric herbal tea before then). And I’ve been getting better sleep, which can’t have hurt! That’s it. No calorie restriction, no difficult fasting intervals. If I keep eating this way, who knows where my natural weight could land. I still haven’t decided when (or if) I’ll try to have a sweet treat again. Right now I’m happy as is!

Project 135 stats:

Starting weight: 159.6 (May 2020)
Week 1: 157.2
Week 2: 155.6
Week 3: 155.4
Week 4: 153.8
Week 5: 151.0
Week 6: 152.8
Week 7: ? (Dad’s death)
Week 8: 150.8
Week 9: 152.6
Week 10: 154.2
Week 11: 152.6
Week 12: 150.8
Week 17: 155.2 (sugar binges)
Week 18: 154.4
Week 19: 153.8
Week 25: 146.6
Week 26: 148.2 (Halloween candy)
Week 27: 146.8
Week 28: 146.6
Week 29: 148.8 (Thanksgiving)
Week 30: 148.4
Week 31: 149.0
Week 32: 152.2
Week 33: 153.0 (Christmas)
Week 37: 153.8 (January 2021: Start intuitive eating experiment)
Week 38.5: 160.8 (on Feb 1, 2021 -> go back to NSNF)
Week 40: 156.4
Week 41: 154.4
Week 42: 151.6

Total weight loss: 8 pounds (5.0%)


Stay well!
xo, Jen




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