I was just downloading photos from my phone and …well…
I really don’t remember my face looking like that. When I look in the mirror now, I can see a little bit of difference. I notice it under my chin, and it seems like my eyelids are a little less crepe-y. But holy crap. I kind of want to burst into tears looking at that picture. And that’s 40 pounds less than when I looked like this:
I’ve been thinking for a long time about writing a post about my battle to lose weight. I’ve hesitated for a lot of reasons. I can’t even seem to write about the reasons themselves without turning it into a mess of circular blather. For now, suffice it to say: it’s a personal fight. And I’m not finished yet.
I’ve posted a little before about my weight throughout the years, and growing up feeling fat. I think most teenage girls feel that way. I battled weight gain, like most co-eds, but I lost it and came out on the other side just fine. When I got married, I was a good, healthy weight. But then life happened, as it usually does, and I was happy and busy and, honestly? I was lazy.
Between happy, lazy, pregnant, and whatever else came in between, I put on 100 pounds. Actually, if you add things up, I gained a total of 188 pounds. I just happened to lose chunks of it here and there, and then put more on. Over the years, I have tried several diets, several medications, and I’ve learned lots of what doesn’t work. I think it’s time I shared what works for me.
You have to really be ready to change. That sounds kind of stupid, but it was a HUGE breakthrough for me. I spent a lot of years feeling mostly at peace with how I looked, but then when weight loss or exercise would come up in conversations, I would feel really ill at ease. I felt like there was an elephant in the room (and it was probably me,) and I would start trying to think of socially acceptable excuses for why I hadn’t done anything about my weight. One evening, my (very fit) uncle turned to me and said, “Eh. You know, when you want to, you will.” I felt like he had given me a license to make up my own mind about the whole issue, without any pressure. So now, when I see other people feeling that same awkwardness, that’s the answer I give. When you want to, you will.
I think we have a tendency to decide we want to GET FIT WOOHOO! and then throw out all the food and start a new diet and buy new exercise shoes and do! all! the things! It’s a rare person who can keep that up for very long. I’ve found that the most effective changes for me have been realistic, small, and made one at a time. For me, that began with cutting way back on our fast food. Then I started trying to add in more fruits and veggies. Once we were actually eating healthily, then I made the move to reduce my calories. Then I added in exercise.
Now, there’s no reason you couldn’t do a couple of those at once. I just think it’s crazypants to try and do everything at the same time. You’ll go insane.
I know some people love diets, but whether it’s physical or psychological, they just don’t work for me. Once I know I’m “dieting,” I spend all day thinking about what I’m allowed to eat, and what I’m going to eat next. It basically turns me into a crazy person. I need all foods to be allowed, and to be trusted to make good choices. Um, I might have issues with authority.
I keep track of my calories with an app (Lose It!), but I pretty much allow myself to eat whatever I want as long as it fits my macros. Remember how we were talking about making changes you can incorporate into your real life? For me, real life means I have to balance my protein and carbs. It stinks, but it’s real. However, it does start to come pretty naturally before long.
Also? I give myself a cheat day every week. I try to make it a day when I’ve worked out. But you have to live a little.
The most disturbing, frightening, world-shattering thing I’ve learned in the last few months? Exercise is the real deal. I know. No one wants to hear it. That’s how I got to be 35 years old and 200+ pounds, friend. Refusing to exercise is just prolonging the inevitable. And that inevitable is this: you can stay overweight (which is cool with me, if it’s cool with you), or you can just suck it up and work out.
I started with yoga. I like yoga because it appeals to my roots in ballet. The stretching and flexibility feel great, and I’m good at it.
But for whatever reason, I got the idea I was going to start running. A bunch of my girlfriends were all running a mud race, and I wanted to do it with them. Then I broke my ankle, had surgery, and had to recoup. It was a year before my ankle was ready. I missed the mud race, but the treadmill was waiting. I’ve posted a bit about my running already, but I’m up to 8+ miles/week now.
Losing weight is hard work. There are lots of sites out there that will tell you it’s all math–a 500 calorie deficit/day = 1 pound/week lost! Yeah…it’s not that simple. Different foods are processed differently, and if you can figure out how to make that work for you, you win. And some people’s bodies just want to hang on to weight more than others (I have PCOS and hypothyroid. Booyah!). But knocking off 500 calories isn’t a bad place to start. I also tried using all kinds of “metabolic rate” calculators, which have you plug in your weight and age and activity rate, and claim to give you the number of calories you need to consume each day just to fuel your body. According to a lot of them out there, I should be eating something like 2495 calories?? If I did that, I would weigh 700 pounds! Metabolic weight is really personal, and making calculations based just on weight and age and sex isn’t really a good way to do things. I do have a calculator I like better than most out there, though, if you’d want to try it.
Right now, I’m finding myself trying not to be frustrated with the scale. I am, actually, losing an average of a pound a week. Sounds great, right? But here’s what my graph looks like:
…and there may have been some spikes in there that I just couldn’t record, for the sake of my own mental health. Ahem. My advice? Keep track of your measurements. Even through all of those ups and downs, I was losing major inches. I measure every two weeks, and I’m down at least .25″ on each measurement every time. It’s a great way to stay motivated!
Do What Works for You
Above all, I think you have to make the choices that will work best for you. Just because something is working well for your cousin/friend/husband doesn’t mean it’s going to be the magic bean that makes you thin. Think about your habits, what you love, what you’re willing to give up, and what you’re not. Are you someone who does better with planned out meals, or do you like the flexibility to cook what you want? Do you need some group encouragement, or do you want to be left alone to do your thing? Is there some form of exercise that sounds fun to you? Do that! Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you want to do. If you’re ready, and you want it, you’ll really stick with it.
And I’ll be right here, sweating and cheering you on.