Life-Changing Losses and Those That Aren’t

Ten years ago when I lost 200 pounds it made a profound difference in my life. It was shocking how much of a difference it made to me, my outlook, my physical well-being, my mood, and my state of mind. You could literally have taken a big black marker and drawn a line across my life right at that point, with everything being divided into “before” and “after.” If you talk to me about things that happened before, there’s not much good or happy there, definitely none that isn’t tinged with regret or unhappiness to some extent. Almost all of the happy and good things that have happened in my life have been after. I’ve said before that a lot of this had to do with my own hangups and self-hatred, and I will stand by that statement. However, what this has meant is that when I hear people talk about how losing weight “won’t change your life, you’ll still have the same problems” blah de blah, I really don’t think that’s true. Or…I think that’s very dependent on how much weight you have to lose. Losing 200 pounds is a life changer. It changes everything.

Well, now I have a different perspective. Last fall I endeavored to lost 50 pounds that had crept on in the last 2-3 years. I lost it, and I’ve been keeping it off since January. But this was not a life changing achievement. Absolutely not. It’s been remarkable to me how different achieving this loss has felt in my head. It’s been such a non-game-changer that I haven’t even bought new clothes. I took in a few things here and there, but mostly I’ve just gotten more comfortable in (or back in to) the clothes I already owned. My mental picture of myself hasn’t changed at all. I didn’t think I looked particularly bad 50 pounds ago, and I don’t think I look particularly magnificent now. I feel like I look the same, even though several people have commented and mentioned that it was clear I did some hard work and they can see the change in me. I did work hard, and I can see a bit of a change, but there was no massive life change this time like there was when it was a much bigger number.

So I can now see why people say things like, “It won’t change your life/make you happy. You’ll still have the same problems/issues/etc.” It’s not JUST that they are big downers and naysayers. It’s that, depending on how big or small the loss, your life may not change at all. The only thing that’s different is I am much more comfortable in my non-stretchy clothing. My outlook and happiness levels have stayed pretty similar. And my mental picture of myself (you know what I’m talking about – the thing I see when I look at pictures of me that nobody but me sees) hasn’t changed much. I still zero in on the things I don’t like, I still think my face looks fat or my arms are wobbly or whatever. Just like I did before. Jus tlike I guess I always will.

This morning’s weight: 183.5

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Three and a Half Pounds

That’s how much my body reacts when I go off-plan.

So here’s the backstory: Wednesday I, for professional purposes, found it to be in my best interests to eat pizza for lunch with my team at work. I did what I could to mitigate the impact: Ate only vegetarian pizza, limited my intake to two slices (although they were fairly large slices), and skipped my afternoon snack. It was thin-crust, so I estimate about 300 calories per slice, so a total of 600 calories, when I normally have about 250 calories for lunch. That’s not a huge variance, but my body reacted with total hyperbolic outrage.

The whole rest of the day my gut gurgled and groaned and muttered as it processed this unexpected deposit of processed junk. And then when I got on the scale Thursday morning I was up to 188.5! That’s a pound and a half over my target weight, and three and a half over Wednesday morning’s number. Yesterday I was more scrupulous than usual about staying on track because clearly I needed to make amends with my body.

This morning I was back to 185. Whew! What a crazy reaction to a single slip comprised of about 350 extra calories… My body is such a drama queen. I will add this to my list of “interesting fluctuation anomalies” and keep this in mind when pizza happens in the future!

The Slippery Nature of Exercise in a Weight Management Program

Yesterday I went for a run for the first time in about 2 weeks. The cold really knocked me down and I was taking my time and reveling in the opportunity to just let myself rest and recuperate for as long as felt right, instead of trying to force myself to get up and out there. I mean…it’s not a race to see who gets over their cold fastest. And even if it were, well, I’m not a very competitive person, so I’d probably be happy to let you win that one.

Anyway, while I was running I was mulling on some truths about exercise. The first one is that you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet. It’s just too easy to eat vastly more calories than you can ever work off in a day. The second is the corollary – that exercise alone is never going to be a sufficient weight management strategy. The third is that managing food intake alone DOES seem to be sufficient to manage weight. And the fourth is that even though exercise alone is not enough to manage a stable weight after weight loss, all the people I know that HAVE kept off weight for significant lengths of time exercise regularly.

While I was sick I spent two weeks not exercising, and I didn’t gain a pound, in fact I seemed to be trending lower by the end of it. What I’ve discerned over the years is that restricting food intake alone is sufficient to manage my weight for short periods. However, exercise seems to be the elusive glue that holds my mindset and program together long-term. If I’m not exercising regularly for no good reason (as in, I’m not physically unable to, like with my cold), I am unable to maintain motivation to control my weight through food choices. Over time, when I’m not exercising just because I don’t feel like it, I will eventually also give up on monitoring my intake to manage my weight.

It’s a slippery sort of thing. Mathematically you don’t need to exercise to lose or maintain weight. But mentally and emotionally…I can’t do it without regular exercise. And all the people I know that are doing it successfully are in the same boat.

Weight this morning: 184.5

Still Alive

I am, I’m still alive, I just feel like I wish I weren’t. It’s been a really, really rough week. Last Friday (a week ago now) I started feeling kind of bad. My husband and I had walked down the road to a carnival which had sprung up in an open lot, to ride some rides and generally be goofy kids on a date. On the walk home I started feeling really weak and dizzy and generally bad. I was coming down with a cold.

At the same time, my beloved cat of over 13 years was making all the signals that he was pretty much giving up the ghost. He’s had a heart condition for about 2 years now, and his heart was done. Sunday night he passed away.

They say sorrow can suppress the immune system and make sickness worse…well, I’d have to agree. I’ve spent the whole week being bowled over by alternating waves of grief and pain. I don’t think that, on its own, this was a particularly bad cold, but in combination with the grieving and sadness it has completely knocked me off my feet. I took Monday off from work, and worked from home the rest of the week but honestly…I don’t think I was bringing much value. The week was a blur of pain and misery. There were a couple of times where I knew I had meetings I needed to call into but instead I…was asleep. And couldn’t muster the determination to really care. I will likely have a lot of catching up to do on Monday. I am fortunate that in my position I am allowed the latitude to have and then make up for a very bad week.

Weight this morning: 182.