I am not a fan of before pictures. I especially hate the idea of putting on a sport bra and tight running shorts and snapping a typical before photo. Talk about demoralizing. That’s just not a good look for me now and definitely wasn’t 30 pounds ago. I have a lot of candid photos that illustrate what I looked like before. I’m sorry to say, I don’t love any of them. But I’ve been asked for one, so I decided to include a few with this post. In no particular order – these are from the last 3-4 years. Most of these photos show me between 189 – 199 pounds. I am 5’3″.
I’ve managed to make some big changes over the past 10 weeks and I am pretty happy about what I’ve been able to accomplish. I feel like I’m becoming more motivated by success and the anticipation of physically changing (new clothes! doing things I couldn’t do very well before). I am excited because I finally feel like I’m getting back to myself.
Being able to let go of 30 pounds…it’s done more than allow me to wear a smaller size…it’s woken me up. I finally feel like I want to do more than just numb out on the sofa, in front of the TV, every night.
Since I gained the weight – over the past 6 years – once or twice a year, I would attempt to “get back on track” and lose it by exercising and “watching” what I ate. I would attempt to maintain a daily calorie intake of 1400-1500 and I would mainly eat whole foods. I would usually take off about 5-6 pounds within the first 2 weeks (mainly because I was bloated to begin with) and then everything would start to slow down – so that even though I was “being careful” about what I ate and even though I was walking for an hour 5-6 times a week, I’d only see a miniscule loss on the scale week after week and sometimes even a slight gain. Then I’d get frustrated or something stressful would happen or a celebration would be on my schedule and before I knew it, I’d be off track and stuck again, feeling like crap about myself and feeling helpless to change it.
Then in June, a quiet little thought came to me – just make some small changes, make it easy. Get a new perspective – try something different. Take it one step at a time.
A couple of people in the health and wellness community on Facebook and a few other people I knew in real life were inspiring me to try, one more time, to finally have the life I wanted – to gain a fresh perspective.
The first thing I did was to make a few small tweaks to my diet. Though I tend to eat mostly whole, organic foods it’s all the little extras that were killing my previous diet attempts. I’d do great for breakfast and lunch but then come home and have a glass or two of wine – always a 4 oz pour but two glasses is 250 calories – over a week – that’s 1000-1500 extra calories. Couple that with adding cream and sugar to my 3 cups of morning coffee (don’t freak – my coffee cups are small) – that comes out to 735 calories a week. Throw in a pat of butter throw on the steamed veggies, a few tablespoons of a high calorie dressing on a beautiful salad, a wedge of artisan bread dipped in basil olive oil, etc…and I’d be quickly over my daily calorie allotment. That realization alone made me look at my whole diet in a different way.
Next I decided to consult a body image specialist – I wrote about that here. Angie helped me to figure out the difference between what I want and what I need. She helped me to see that I really had to make the things I need in my life my top priority. After talking to her (and at her urging), I opened up and told my partner that I wanted to change a few things (like stop watching so much tv and try to eat healthier, etc). Though I was so resistent to having a conversation with my spouse – it turned out to be a great talk and helped me to feel supported, heard, accepted and loved.
In the mean time, I also had a talk with friend (a doctor) about all of this. She really helped me to see what conventional medicine had to offer me. I was going through a real physical change that needed to be treated. Dealing with all my stress and anxiety was something that I had to come to terms with. And I needed a practical plan to deal with my emotional eating. Often I felt so helpless against emotions that made me self-sabotage. It was all just a vicious cycle and I needed real help to break it.
One thing I did to motivate myself and to track my progress was to sign up with My Fitness Pal. I wanted to track my weight but this time I wanted to use the scale differently…I didn’t want tracking my weight to end up making me feel bad or knocking me off track. A lady online said that she tracked her weight daily and after a few years of doing it, she had come to see all the patterns - I thought that I should give that a shot. Amazingly, it has really worked for me. I have been motivated by seeing the actual number change but also by learning the patterns of my body. So that when I’ve seen a gain it hasn’t freaked me out because I know a big dip is coming up. It’s actually given me so much insight that I’d totally missed before.
At the end of June, in addition to tracking my weight, I began to track my calories on the MFP app too. I started out at 1400 calories per day. Surprisingly, I have learned a lot about myself and my eating habits by tracking my calories. I thought I was pretty good with portions but since tracking calories forced me to start weighing and measuring things – I discovered that I needed a portion size refresher. I began using smaller plates, bowls and utensils to fool my eye into thinking I was getting a lot of food (an appropriate portion size). That led me to realize that I can actually push away from the table feeling satisfied by smaller portions. I made the effort to make fantastically good food and to not deny my cravings – so if I wanted a grilled cheese sandwich, then I would make it so that it fit within my calorie budget AND was made in as healthy/clean a way possible or I would make some amazing brownies but only make half a batch, then immediately give most of it away – but I’d have the brownie and I would enjoy it.
Confession: I haven’t really been exercising – not consistently since probably June of last year. Normally, whenever I have wanted to take the extra weight off, I would start walking – but this time I have had a hard time doing it. It’s not that I don’t like walking – honestly, it’s my exercise of choice but I just haven’t wanted to do it. The only thing I’ve wanted to do is meditate (and that’s about as much exercise as sleeping is) and do some relaxation yoga (again, not much of a calore burner).
I know almost everyone out there would say that was a no no. On thing I’ve realized, I think all the times before – exercise played into my all or nothing mindset. If I missed 1 day (even a scheduled rest day), I would feel awful, like I was cheating or I wasn’t doing it right or I didn’t really want to lose weight enough. I felt like I was losing my motivation. So this time I thought I would only exercise when I wanted to and that I would do what I wanted to do – if it was 15 minutes of yoga, that was going to be fine by me.
Now, 30 pounds and 10 weeks later – this week, in fact, I had the realization that I am smaller, physically. And then immediately thought, ”I can probably do yoga better!” I have always felt pretty bad at yoga because there are so many poses that I couldn’t comfortably do.
I know that I need to have an exercise regimen in place by the time I hit maintainence or this is all going to fall apart. So I have decided to start by taking a yoga class twice a week for the next couple of months. I need to start making exercise a priority. I do love it when I’m in the zone – cardio in the morning gives me a confidence and energy boost that I can’t get any other way. I want to be able to exercise without it fueling that all or nothing mindset and I’m hoping that by starting with yoga I will begin to enjoy movement without feeling clumsey and old and goofy.
There’s an embarrassing side of all this. I’d be lying if I said it’s been easy. Even now that voice, you know the one, is whispering,
You haven’t lost that much. No one can really tell because you’d gotten so big. You are still fat. Why do you even bother? You’ll “fall off the wagon” before you reach your goal. You are never going to be able to maintain this new “lifestyle.”
I hate that voice. And I wonder if I will ever be able to forget it. Will those thoughts always come to me and poison my progress?
So what can I do about those thoughts? Should I handle it the way I do in meditation -just acknowledge that it’s a thought and then bring myself back to my breath. That seems the reasonable thing to do.
They say, “the best way to predict the future is to create it…”