Results: I don’t even know what week now

I’ve lost track on this current push to lose 20 pounds. There were two weeks that I was on vacation that I’m not counting because I wasn’t tracking, then I think I’ve been back three or four weeks? The day after I got back I was up 3.2 pounds, the next week after that trip I was down 5, then the next week I was up 2.8, then this week I was down 3.4 pounds.

As I mentioned last week, things are kind of up in the air right now with big changes happening in my life, and last week was an absolute emotional roller coaster that still hasn’t coasted to a stop. I spent most of last week and the week before with a giant knot of stress and worry in my belly. I was not in the least surprised to be up 2.8 pounds last Monday due to the anxiety hormones my body was producing. I’ve heard anecdotally that stress makes the body hang onto water, or something. Plus my birthday was that week and I had some champagne and a cupcake.

Anyway, I think maybe I should stop tracking weeks and weekly change and just track total against my goal. So far I’m down 13.2 pounds – loss continues! My loss rate is slowing as I approach my goal, but also I’m not killing myself with calorie restriction and over-exercising, so I’m not expecting a fast loss. I now have 6.8 pounds to go to my goal. I don’t think I look any different, however my clothes fit again and that is win enough for me – that’s honestly the major thing I wanted out of this!

Looking back through my posts, I started the current push on March 25th, so it’s basically been three months or twelve weeks. That’s a pretty slow rate of loss, but who cares? For something I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life, it’s more important that I find and establish a routine that I can stick to and that is adaptable to different situations – travel, weekends, holidays, regular ol’ workdays. When I set up a system that is flexible enough to stick with despite big changes and many different types of days, then all I need to do is live and my body will do what it is supposed to do, and be where I want it to be.

Yesterday I needed a quick workout because I didn’t have much time, and I found this Cardio Bootcamp Boogie workout from my favorite YouTube trainer – 25 minutes, can be done in very little space, and intense enough that my clothes were soaked through by the end. Check it out if you need a quick travel workout (or just some inspiration at home)!

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What a “Lifestyle Change” Really Means

I’m not the first person to say, “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.” But maybe I’m the first person to really lay out what that means. When someone tells me they want to lose and keep off a significant amount of weight (to me that’s over 50 pounds), here’s what I wonder if they realize it means:

It means becoming an exercise obsessive. You’ll spend every day finding a time and place to exercise. You’ll spend time every day deciding what, where, and when. You’ll feel like crap if you don’t do it. It means that every day, every single one for the rest of your life, EVERY DAY, exercise is going to be a factor. You may not exercise every day, but you’ll think about it, you’ll decide whether a rest day is reasonable for you today or not. And if not you’ll have to do something about it. Every day. FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. There’s no end date. You’re going to become the kind of person who needs to get their workout in.

It means planning your food out, and making sure your choices are supportive of your weight goals. Every meal for the rest of your life. Every meal you’ll have to weigh the choices, and decide what you can and can’t put in your mouth, based on a myriad of factors you’ll be conscious of that may have never occurred to you before at mealtime. EVERY MEAL. When did I last eat? How much is left in my calorie budget? What’s the least horrible thing on this menu, that’ll blow the smallest hole possible in my food plan today? Can I get the dressing on the side? Do I have enough lean meat and veggies in my fridge to make a supportive meal at home? Oh god the company is bringing in pizza can I get away with a piece or do I have to settle for salad today while everyone else munches away? FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. There’s never gonna be a time again when you get to eat mindlessly and without a second thought.

It means never letting up, until you die. Every day you’ll have to make these calculations and every day you have to choose the path anew.

If you let up for a day, you’ll probably be ok. If you let up for 6 months…disaster. You may have to start all over again, and it’s harder the second time.

Why does anybody want this? Oh right, because the alternative is unbearable.

I hate it, I hate that I have to do this every single day until my last breath. As boring as it is to my friends to have to deal with my annoying food rules and preferences, it’s more annoying to me. As tedious as it is to observe my on-going love/hate affair with running and kickboxing and MetCon and super-setting and zumba and HIIT and cycling, it’s more tedious to have no choice but to keep at it, day after day, bored or not, enthusiastic or not.

Because I hate the alternative more. My alternative is 400+ pounds, limited mobility, and an early death. Screw that.

 

I Am Not Willing to Starve Myself for the Rest of My Life

I’ve been thinking on this article about why diets always fail in the long run. I’m, clearly, in the very tiny minority in that I’ve kept a large portion of the weight I lost off, however I think that over time I’ve been trending towards the larger majority.

I say that because I cannot for all that is good and great in this world, keep myself at my initial goal weight. I know, crazy, right? I lost 200 pounds, and I can’t manage to stay at my lowest weight ever for the rest of my life. It actually took my last round of liquid dieting (Optifast, to be precise) the really drive home for me that I will not ever be maintaining my “goal” weight.

What I really learned through the Optifast experience was that I could get to that weight, I could probably maintain – if I’m willing to live on a starvation diet forever.

Starvation. Forever.

No. I won’t do it.

My life is worth more than that. My time and my energy and my happiness are worth more than that.

Some of the things that chap my hide are that a normal person who never had to lose 200 pounds can eat so many more calories to maintain my goal weight than I could. To maintain that weight I’d have to average about 1300 calories a day (I know this from trial and error). That is not quite starvation, but if I went over one day I’d have to cut back by the same amount the next. Dinner out on Monday? Tuesday I’d get 800 calories. And that, my friends, is a starvation diet.

Every time I go to MyFitnessPal I get reminded that a normal person, with a normal metabolism, could eat 1950 calories at my current weight and lose. Not me. I’m targeting 1600 calories a day right now to maintain. That is a hard reality to swallow. So I target 1600, and some days I stay under, and some days I eat out with friends and have a cocktail because my life is worth more than that. I’m unwilling to spend the rest of my life hungry and exhausted just to be skinny.

Anyway, what I’m doing now is eating clean, exercising 4-6 days a week, and not weighing myself. Because it doesn’t matter. Whatever number comes up is irrelevant because I’m doing the best I can on food and exercise. I’ll weigh what I weigh, doing the best I can to eat healthily and exercise hard most days. And damn, I look good and feel good, isn’t that all anybody could ask for?

Benefits of Not Weighing In

I posted recently about the On/Off switch. Well, I’ve been riding the On switch for a little over 2 weeks now. I even had a really bad eating day on Saturday due to attending an event, and I shook it off and got back into the groove right away. It’s such an elusive state that I’m trying to surf it as long as I can, and one of the best ways to do that is to not weigh myself.

I’ve noticed that, on balance, one of the quickest ways I can derail my efforts is to weigh myself. When I weigh in, one of two things happens: Either my number has gone down a bit, and I’m happy and smug and figure I can allow myself a little leeway because I’m doing great. Or I’m up a bit and I’m annoyed and depressed that all my efforts are amounting to nothing so why should I even bother?

Seriously, when I’m working my food and exercise efforts on my own, with nobody to cheerlead or help me work through my emotions, those are my only options. Notice a common outcome? Neither one leads to me continuing to practice my good habits at a focused, motivated level. Nice little trick my mind plays on me, eh? I say again: The biggest challenge in long-term weight management is mental. I have to constantly identify and figure out how to work around the stupid stuff my brain does to me every day.

So, having figured this one out, I weighed myself the day I recommitted to healthy living, and I haven’t since. I’ve decided that I’m going to do this for a month, and maybe I’ll weigh in then to see how things stand. But maybe I won’t!

What I’m doing: I’m journaling every day what I eat. I’m getting exercise at a decent level (I aim for 300 calories burned per day, averaged over the week, so if I don’t work out today, maybe I’ll go for a longer run tomorrow and try to burn at least 600, which is about a 45-50 minute run), and I’m eating clean by avoiding processed food and baked goods.

Today, for the first time since I started a couple of weeks ago I think I can see a difference in my body, maybe a little leaner this morning. And since I’m generally pretty happy with my body these days (especially so since I stopped weighing myself or feeling any pressure to do so), and I’m doing all the right things, I’m not sure I will feel the need to weigh myself after a month, either.

Week 5 Check In

I’m packing tonight for another business trip, this time to Portland, OR. I’ll be there for just one night, and two long days of meetings during which meals and snacks will be provided. This can be a challenging situation. My plan is to do the following things: Check a suitcase so I can have my pre-made shakes on hand. Make sure I’m not sitting where the food is staring at me. Water, diet soda, tea. Gum. Hit the gym after work tomorrow night. I’m staying at what is reputed to be a very nice hotel and hoping their gym is just as nice as their reputation hints it might be. This trip will be a good preview for my next trip – Monday and Tuesday to SoCal. It’s a whirlwind, with a 5K and Halloween Party jammed into the weekend in between!

This week’s change: -2 pounds

Total change so far: -20 pounds.

I am always worried I’m not going to have a loss, but this week in addition to just wanting any kind of a loss, I really wanted it to be at least two pounds to get to that nice, even 20. Even better, I have now crossed the BMI threshold from “obese” to merely “overweight”, coming in at a nice 29.9 today. You know how I feel about BMI. “Overweight? Baby I make that look GOOD.”

My charming husband was down 6 pounds this week, bringing him to -28 total. He is looking FINE, if I do say so myself. And I do.

4 Week Check In

I’ve now completed 4 weeks of meal replacements. Last night after our class we put on the same clothes we’d been wearing when we took our before pictures and took one-month check in pictures. The difference on me is barely discernible – only from the side and only if you know to look for it, so I’m not going to bother posting. I guess I was expecting more of a difference but I know we have 3 more months. We’ll keep taking a photo once every four weeks, hopefully there’ll be a noticeable difference by the time we’re done. Otherwise why the hell am I doing this?

Yeah yeah, I feel better. I had a couple of migraines (my constant bane) the first week of meal replacements, and since then only one (last night). Which is pretty darned good. I have been feeling some fatigue but beating it back with occasional surprise naps and light exercise. And my clothes, at least, fit a little better. That one is a hard call for me because I pretty much only wear knits anymore, so I rarely get to see any kind of difference in fit, but today I’m wearing a skirt that was embarrassingly snug a month ago, so that’s progress. Now it’s just sexily-clingy.

Last night’s weigh-in: down 3 pounds. Excellent result! Very pleased!

Total change so far: -18 pounds.

My husband is down 22 so far. It is very visible in him, he’s pleased to see his handsome, rugged face coming back in the mirror. Or maybe that’s just me.

Waiting for Better Days

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this weekend. I weighed in on Saturday, after a perfect week of following my program – netting about 900 calories a day, and found I’d gained 2 pounds.

This is not normal. This is almost mathematically impossible. I’ve controlled for all variables and this should not be happening.

First of all, let me tell you what it’s NOT. It’s not that I’m “not eating enough calories so your body is hanging onto weight!” as some very helpful persons who overheard me at a party last night talking with some friends who understand my story advised me. (I absolutely love getting pop-diet bullshit packaged as helpful advice from the morbidly obese.) It was about all I could do to NOT whip out some reality and smash these people into the floor verbally, but I like the hosts so I abstained as best I could to not create a scene. I was giving both of these people the benefit of the doubt in that perhaps they are simply stupid and didn’t understand what the word “netting” means, in that it means that the amount I totaled after the amount I burned through exercise was taken out – meaning I actually consumed about 1200 calories a day and burned about ~300 through exercise, but whatever, I digress.  Or, that they honestly believe that the less you eat the fatter you get and that’s why, for example, people who get gastric bypass gain so much weight right after the surgery, and why the survivors of concentration camps are so darned FAT.

AAAAANYWAY.

I was talking with a mental health professional on Friday afternoon about some anxiety problems I’ve been having due to my very stressful job, and he mentioned that stress has been shown to have very strong effects on weight, particularly in women, and he’s seen cases where women in very stressful work situations have lost 20 pounds, changing nothing in their diet, when removed from the work environment, and it’s due to cortisol, one of the stress hormones. And you know what? I don’t have a better working theory for what’s going on with my body. I picked up about 15 pounds on this job and haven’t been able to shake them no matter what I’ve done – starving myself, high-protein, low-cal, running excessively – nothing works. Cortisol is my new theory. My body is hoarding fat due to stress hormones, because I am constantly feeling a “fight-or-flight” rush of adrenaline on the job, every day here. It sucks.

Anyway, the long-term plan is for me to get out of my job, but my husband needs to graduate from his BA program and get a job himself first, so I just need to hang on for a few more months (hopefully). I can make it…I can make it. So I’m back to normal eating. If the drastic diet isn’t going to do anything for me, because of the high stress environment I’m unable to leave, then I’m not going to kill myself with hunger. I’ll eat sensibly, and wait for better days.