Friday, June 1, 2012

My Weight Loss Story: 2010-present

(Did you miss part 1 or part 2?) 

2010 saw me doing lots of running and logging my miles as one of my yearly goals.  I ran several 5Ks and my first 10K.   But I was still eating junk, just smaller portions.  Late in the year, I started a round of the Game On! diet, which was great.  It really got me thinking about the composition of each meal, snacking between meals, water intake and how much of the food we eat every day is filled with junk like sugar and salt.

In 2011 I ran another10k and then relaxed my running schedule a bit.  It seemed like unless I was going to move on to half marathons, I had reached the goals I wanted to and it was time to move on.  So I moved on to weight lifting!  Another easy to track exercise, you can lift x lbs for x reps and keep records of your progress.  I started off with The Female Body Breakthrough and then moved on to Body for Life.  I followed to diet program that goes along with Body for Life.   Despite the claim that small meals throughout the day keep your metabolic fire going and your blood sugar doesn't spike and all that, I found that I didn't gain any weight but it didn't make a huge impact on weight loss either.  But all that dairy and eggs and protein powder did a number on my digestive system so I dumped that after a couple of rounds.  From 2010 onward I did not really loose much weight at all, which was a clue to me that I was at a happy weight.

Let's look at the whole journey in graph form!  You can see my initial loss in 2003 followed by  a period of maintenance.  Then a gain and a couple of years of complacency before REALLY being inspired and taking things seriously.  Then another period of complacency which came with a small gain followed by another serious push to get  down to the healthy weight that I've been slowly decreasing/maintaining for around 2 years now.  Is this just another period of complacency?  That was my first thought when I started to plateau at this weight but after seriously thinking over what my goal weight would be if it weren't this weight, I think I've found a good stopping point.  I like the amount of exercise it takes to maintain this weight.  I like the food I'm eating and the amount I'm eating.  After loosing over 80 pounds I do have excess skin, especially on my stomach and arms but I'm not even thinking about surgery right now to remove it.  It doesn't impede daily activities or chafe or anything like that, it's just mildly annoying.

2012, I'm in purple
What have I learned and how am I applying it?  I LOVE the feeling I get from being physically active.  I love variety so whether it's classes like Zumba, running outside or on the treadmill, walking the dog, gardening, a bike ride, or trying a new sport, I'm up for it!  I also love weight training and yoga so I try to fit them both in every week as well.  I strive for 5 days of cardio, 2-3 sessions of weights and at least one yoga session every week.

I feel MUCH more alive when I am well hydrated.  Game on! made me realize that sometimes when I think I'm hungry (especially if I'm craving fruit) I'm really just thirsty.  So I aim for at least 100 ounces of water every day.

I am much happier eating larger meals (I never quite caught on to the snack-sized lunch and dinner.)  three times a day and not snacking in between.   I measure out my grains and nuts/seeds, which helps me keep an eye on portions but I don't feel bad doling out large helpings of beans, fruits and veggies.   Game On! got me to read labels on my food and now my newest experiment, Dr. Fuhrman's Eating to Live, has helped me transition to an even more whole-foods diet.  It makes so much sense that food is fuel for your body and you need to give your body not just the calories it needs to survive, but the nutrients that all of your systems need.  Yes, if you eat fewer calories you will lose weight.  But if you are still eating processed foods like frozen meals, lots of added sugar (like in pasta sauce, yogurt, crackers, everything!) and empty calories (like a lot of no-fat and low-calorie products that Hungry Girl pushes), your body will still be craving food and signaling you to eat more because it still NEEDS the nutrients you're not giving it.  Once you feed yourself all of the multitude of vitamins and nutrients you need to be healthy, you won't crave those empty foods any more!

Once I conquered junk food and portion size (which took a set of measuring cups and some guidelines), my biggest issue with food is after-dinner snacking.  I snack when my hands are idle, either because it is a time when I should be relaxing or because I am putting off some task on my to-do list.  I know a lot of people say they eat for comfort, and I guess this is comfort of a sort for me.  Comfort from the anxiety that stillness brings and I'm working on becoming more comfortable with quieting my body and resting.

In the evenings I often feel either I SHOULD be doing something or I don’t know what I should be doing.   I’m an antsy person, I can’t sit still and relax, I need a job and to keep moving. When I don’t have a job (like in the evenings when a normal person would just take a moment to breath and unwind) I reach for food as my “job”. That way, I’m not sitting on the couch doing nothing, I’m sitting on the couch eating!  It is also my standby excuse for when my body NEEDS a break but I don’t want to take one. I can say to myself “I would be folding the laundry, finishing up that quilt, cleaning the bathroom but I’m eating.”  Because of this discovery, I have learned that everyone needs a breather and instead of eating, it’s ok for me to just slow down. It’s ok to just sit on the couch for an hour (without the crutch of food to make it ok). It’s ok, to remain at the table or on the couch after a meal to just chat and enjoy some leisure, it doesn’t need to be “meal time=your break time and all other time you must remain busy!”  This has made night time snacking (my main issue) easier to stave off.  I'm not going to say I've conquered it.  I still have to remind myself that instead of a banana with peanut butter, maybe I should meditate for 10 minutes.  Instead of a bowl of oatmeal, maybe I should just take a deep breath and enjoy a chapter in the book I'm reading.  Or maybe it's ok to just space out.  Just being still is very healthy and restful and good for you.  Food has always been a break from activity so I am still learning how to relax without food.

Another big hurdle for me was being able to see what was actually in the mirror.  Just like in all those childhood pictures that I had seen a fat child that wasn't really there, I still saw the same old me in the mirror even though that's not what was physically there anymore.  I struggled with this and had to honestly look at myself, acknowledge that there was a different reflection looking back at me and that my idea of me was changing.  What I had always thought and done did not apply anymore.  I can't tell you how many times I bought clothes that were too big because I had always reached for the XL shirt and still saw myself as that size.  Once I was seeing a factual picture of myself, I was able to start dressing for my size, which improved how I looked. This in turn fed my self-esteem and turned into a positive feedback loop, enough that I even bought a bikini!

So there you have it.  I am now at a healthy weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol level. I have a healthy BMI, am physically active and eat a healthy diet.  And I am so thankful that I took the MANY baby steps that it took to get to this point.  Yes, I got discouraged along the way, but each time I felt my determination rise and started over again, I was that much closer to my goals.  It has been a long journey, a bumpy and difficult and frustrating journey.  And it's not over because each day is a new challenge, to stick with my exercise and eating plans in the face of an overwhelming societal norm of horrible eating habits and sedentary lifestyles.  Coming up: a post with plenty of tips for doing just that!

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