Howdy all! I trust your week is going swimmingly, or at least better than some weeks. 🙂 Mine is fine. Mom is still doing about the same as of yesterday. Her doctor is pleased with her slight weight loss, something we have worked on carefully by reducing some portions out of fear that she was borderline pre-diabetic (is that redundant?).
Yesterday was also my first official weigh-in in the world’s best Weight Watchers class, the Monday evening class in Springfield. Here is my referral link…be my guest and come say hi next Monday at 5:30pm. 🙂 You will love Rebecca, the coach, and all of the staff! It was a full house, so apparently others had the same idea/resolution as I did. I am no stranger to weight loss and/or gain, even with WW as my catalyst. I, although far from a dieting expert, have a lot of experience in weight change. As many of you know from past blogs and/or social media/friendship, I have lost over 100 pounds three times in my life and yesterday I started the project for round 4. My philosophy: dieting can work pretty much whichever one you choose (except the Cheesecake diet…that one is a fail!), but you need one that you can stay on forever after you lose your weight to maintain. Enter WW.
So, why on Earth is Blog Boy talking diets when this column is about dementia??? (Pulls out shoehorn and some mild foot powder/lube). Behold…
10 Things You Can Learn About Dementia from Weight Watchers (WW):
- The victories are often easy to miss. Last night at my 1st official weigh-in, I didn’t even bring up that I had been on the plan since the previous Monday and had lost 9.8 pounds. Honestly, as odd as it sounds, I wanted to keep that victory low key because I have gained about 50 in the last year. Yesterday, therefore, was my official starting point. In dementia (remote) caregiving, some days just coming to visit and seeing a smile when you come in is worth its weight in gold. I would love to walk in and hear a happy “Howdy Punkin” from mom (her nickname for me growing up), but I will settle with the new normal smile as that ship sailed at least 2 years ago.
- What is good for the heart is good for the rest. Weight Watchers is now called WW (although I am unsure why the marketing wizard wants “Double You, Double You” instead of “Half You, Half You”, known mathematically as U/2. When searching for an answer to this question online, I left sad…I Still Haven’t Found What I am Looking For…but I digress.)….(Silence….) (Cricket sounds…) …(Whispering) “I think everyone left!” Well, I will march on With or Without You. 😉 So, in WW, there are several eternal realities including: 1. Eat good, healthy, heart-healthy foods and you are rewarded with not burning through your daily point allotment as fast as if you make bad choices (re: Cheesecake Diet). 2. You are “rewarded” for exercising. Theoretically if you exercise enough, you could eat the Cheesecake diet…but you won’t want to. According to my WW app, I am allowed a whopping 66 points on the Green Plan (see their website for details), but a slice of cheesecake with fruit on it is 19 points. I could skip a meal for it or I could exercise at the intensity I did this morning for 71 minutes. Or I could choose a different food. 3. Hence, behavior modification/habit loop kicks in and we realize certain foods may not be worth it. At least we have to count the cost. Heart health is also huge in dementia, especially in seeking to prevent it. “What is good for the heart is good for the brain” is an excellent rule of thumb in prevention and the reverse is also true. Eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise, throw away the cancer sticks, sleep enough, etc…you know the drill. Just do it! Dozens of my articles have discussed prevention, and more will soon.
- Routine is important. My experience with WW is that I do excellent until I don’t. All week long I get in a routine: pack lunches/meal plan, pre-count points, schedule exercise, tract everything(!!) …you know the drill. THEN, something derails the train. I have an out-of-town meeting, a holiday happens (President’s Day is famous for cheesecake!!!). Perhaps I pull a muscle. Things go haywire. In dementia, routine is also of utmost importance, especially in early and middle stage cases. Mom would do pretty good for several days straight, then something simple would throw her off. Too much stimulation. A fall. A Sweet 17 member would pass away and there would be lots of visitors/a ruckus. She would catch a cold. She would miss/throw up a medicine dose….and the whole train would derail for a week or longer. Nurses and good caregivers fight for a routine and resist change. Rewind to the early articles here is you don’t believe me. 😉
- Sleep matters. Sleeping enough in WW is sometimes an underrated aspect of the life plan. Getting a good night’s sleep encourages you to wake up rested, to feel more like a good exercise session, to have less stress and to stay on track/on routine. Sleep matters in dementia in several ways. Sleep seems to have an important role in prevention and in managing symptoms. Here are a few links about the topic: Link Link Link Link Link The brain, when you sleep, has some magically restorative things going on that we don’t completely understand. It seems like the act of sleeping to the right depth/number of sleep cycles washes the brain of toxins that make the plaques and tangles, thought to play a role in the disease, more pronounced. It makes sense given the the brain seeks a state of rest so that it can be ready to enact the fight-or-flight response when needed. Hence we drive the same route every day, get dressed the same way, etc…all on autopilot so the brain can take a chill pill. Sleep matters, indeed…
- The journey. Weight loss is a journey. Everyone has their own story. We didn’t get heavy the same. We don’t lose the weight the same. WW gives a great, pretty predictable framework, but sometimes plateaus happen for seemingly no reason…then they go away and the weight loss resumes. Dementia is similar in individuality. Every Alzheimer’s story is different. Lewy Body dementia? Yup. Frontotemporal Dementia? You bet. There are similarities between cases, but the brain is being broken at a different pace and in different locations for everyone. The journey is what makes it hard.
- Five brings to mind number 6…There is strength in numbers!. I have figured several times that I would just save the money and “go at it alone” with my WW experience…and have failed each time. It works ok for a while until something comes up…like a President’s Day cheesecake emergency! Our little Monday group shares great info and it multiplies joy and divides sadness quite nicely. In dementia, you need a full team to make it through the challenges of the disease. I have written a dozen or more times about the importance of assembling a care team including here and here. You need a medical team, a spiritual/prayer team, a family/friend team, a legal team, a support group, and others… There truly is strength in numbers. We were not made to go it alone.
- Anxiety is a bigger deal than you realize. Stress eating is a big problem in my life. I don’t stress eat only because it is a habit or because I am bored. I think the root of my stress eating is utility: it works. It removes the stress. Of course, as I joked with my friend at the meeting last night, heroin would probably “work” too….I have to do better this go around at the habit loop of stress>eat>feel better>stress because I ate too much. Maybe stress>pray>read a book>less stress>? In dementia, despite the fact that the umbrella of diseases is not categorized as a mental illness, it certainly causes symptoms like one. Big shocker…slowly but surely forgetting nearly everything you hold dear would do that. However, it is much more. I feel like it is a spiral of a memory loss, frustration that you cannot remember, despair that it is getting worse and almost apathy/isolation to avoid having to remember on demand to avoid embarrassment. It is a similar in that way to a habit loop. Meds can help, to a point. Mom, after a year of fighting, tweaking doses and having challenges getting her to take her meds is finally at a happy place of comfort, happiness and is relatively anxiety-free. Anxiety caused by brain loss, in my opinion, is the root of most of the symptoms of the disease. It is hard to watch and infinitely harder to endure.
- The banner. WW is truly a weight loss lifestyle that would work for anyone forever. If you need to lose 500 pounds, 50 pounds, 5 pounds or none at all, the plan is for you. It is healthy and it is safe and is better than the plan that nearly everyone uses now. It is worth telling others about, carrying the banner for. Dementia, despite the fact that MILLIONS have it in the U.S. alone, is pretty well hidden from many of our population. Misinformation from ignorance or deceit is everywhere, especially on the internet. Do you want to learn more? Visit Alz.org. Pretty simple. Then tell others about the problem. Carry the banner for my mom and the Sweet 17 and the rest. Carry the banner for the 20-something sweetheart that was introduced at our 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s who is the youngest alive today with the disease. People need to understand…today.
- Mindset. We have good days and bad days with WW. We rock a week, we fail a week. We must find the right mindset to stay the course. I have done it before. I have also went half way before and stopped. I have to eliminate the potential of failing from my mindset and replace it with positive, enduring thoughts. I need to replace guilt in eating too much with a matter-of-fact approach to every decision and make a good counter-decision. When times get rough in the diet, when I have a metaphorical flat tire, I need to fix the flat, I don’t need to flamethrower my car. I have to understand the plan and commit to it to the end…then continue on. The importance of having the right mindset is also important with dementia caregiving. We need to see and understand the problem. I need to not beat myself up when I fail to visit enough or for the 1,000 times over the years that I saw her name on the caller ID and let it go to voicemail. I also need to take care of myself because a healthier me is a better caregiver. And, some sad but sweet day when mom is rid of this mess and her goal is reached, I need to keep fighting to #EndALZ. It is a lifelong thing…or at least until a cure is found. We are not hopeless. We can’t act or live like we are…
- The time is NOW to win this fight! Whether it be weight loss or serving mom and fighting to beat this disease, there is no better time than now. The time of kicking the can down the road has passed. With mom, sure we have done better the last 1.5 years, but misunderstanding the ramifications of her diagnosis and not getting ready 10 years ago is old news. We can’t rewind the tape. All we can fix is today… and the future. Same idea with weight loss. I am what I am. I can’t change yesterday, but I can change today and tomorrow and the future. The time is now. It is time to fight for my health so I can better fight to end this terrible disease. That is my why in weight loss. What is your’s? Are you in?
Update: Mom, as I mentioned above, is doing pretty darn good for a final stage, hospice patient. She smiles, she laughs, she isn’t overly stressed about anything outwardly. All things considered, as you will see if you read old articles here, she is in a good place waiting to go to a great place someday.
Weight update: 355. Lost 9.8 in the time leading up to rejoining WW for a minimum 8 month commitment (You can go month-to-month, but I wanted to go all in…). For my accountability, I will post my weight here every Tuesday. I am 6’1″ tall and currently have a 44″ waist. (Note: I am the ideal weight for someone 8’11” tall. I may pull a Bobby Brady and stretch myself? NOPE…mindset correction…I will stay the course and will do it the right way… 😉