Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Being okay with less than perfect

A few weeks ago I drove an hour to see the weight loss counselor I had previously only met through the phone for weekly weigh in and accountability. The accountability and her encouragement was a big part of why I was able to lose the weight. I had a free day so I decided to go and meet her, hoping it would be a totally encouraging experience. And the first thing she did was put me on a scale, which also measured body fat. According that those calculations I "should" lose another 10-15 pounds. I told her I was actually quite happy with where I was. I feel like this is a weight I can maintain with healthy eating (but still room for chocolate) and moderate exercise.

But then my guilt kicked in. Maybe I should lose the 10-15 pounds. Maybe I would look better or feel even better or it would make me a better person. So I tried for a few days to get back on a more restricted eating plan to lose the weight...and I just couldn't do it. I was crabby. I was tired. And more guilt set in. Why couldn't I do this for another 10 pounds? I think the biggest reason was, well, not really having a reason. I was being motivated by guilt of what someone else thought I should weigh. And having guilt as motivation is both unhealthy and not much motivation.

So I decided to be happy with my current weight. Where I am. Right now. This really is the place where I have a sustainable, healthy eating pattern that includes veggies and chocolate. I am able to exercise for enjoyment without being motivated by guilt (you have to do this) or fear (if I don't run I will regain the weight). This is the weight that is right for me for the time.

At any time life or health circumstances may change causing my weight to climb up or down the scale. Or I may have a change in mindset and want to (for me) lose a few more pounds. But it can't be out of guilt. Or fear. Or the misconception that if the scale goes down all of my problems will go away too. Most of them are still there whether I'm 153 pounds or 223 pounds. And it's really up to me and only me what weight is most appropriate for me.

Yes, deep down I may want to look like a fitness model (how can you not when we are constantly bombarded by marketing images that tell us what we should look like), but I know the extremely strict eating and excessive exercise it would take for me to get there...sacrificing things that are more important than getting into a bikini (it's never gonna happen!) I'd rather be available for my husband, kids, family, and friends. I want to be there to celebrate the joys and cry at the heartaches. That would be hard to do if I was always striving for the perfect body. But at the same time I'm working on being the healthiest I can be so that I'm around for as many laughs and cry fests as I can.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The heaviest day of my life

On October 23, 2006 I waddled into my doctor's office for my last check up before my daughter was born. I stepped on the scale to see a number I never thought I would see...223. At 5'5" (and that's in shoes and with a little positive thinking), 223 was quite the strain on this body. I had spent a majority of my life in the overweight to obese category and gaining 45+ pounds with my first pregnancy did not help my health.

About 14 hours later I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl...who weighed just over 6 pounds, not 45. Sigh.

That was my heaviest day. October 23, 2006. 223 pounds.

Six years later I am 70 pounds lighter. 153. And my knees and body thanked me by compelling me to go out for an unscheduled run.

Am I a better person 70 pounds lighter? Not in any of the ways that truly matter in life. In fact, I probably struggle with body image more now than I ever did when I was on the wrong side of the 200's. Am I superior to someone who is obese (or inferior to someone who graces the cover of a fitness magazine?) Heavens no on both accounts (phew!) The number on the scale will always be just one piece of an infinitely intricate puzzle that makes up who we are. It makes me healthier than I was six years ago. It has given me a confidence that I can accomplish goals I never imagined possible. It is one part of who I am but does not define who I am.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Eating my way through the holidays

Ah, the endless holiday season is upon us. The stores are filled with goodies and decorations for the upcoming celebrations: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. And while I can walk right past a cute autumn wreath, I'm drawn like a moth to a flame to the bags of candy, the boxes of cookies, and the ingredients to make all my own goodies. It was about a year ago I finally decided to get serious and lose some of my excess weight. November 1 was the day I started. Yes, the day after Halloween I gave up all sweets and candy and excess breads and excess dairy. I didn't sneak a single candy bar out of my kids' bags. I didn't have a nibble of pumpkin pie. I had one, count it ONE (okay, maybe two, but no more than two) Christmas cookies the whole season. From November 1 to January 1 I lost a little over 15 pounds. It wasn't fun just having turkey and veggies on Thanksgiving, but it helped me reach my goal. And I told myself "there's always next year."

So it's next year. And already I'm worried about how I'm going to navigate all the festivities (not to mention a move to a new house). I don't want to be as restrictive as I was last year, but I also don't want to get to 2013 and be busting out of my pants. I'm not exactly sure how it will work, but here is my plan at this point. I'd be interested to hear other ideas of how you stay healthy yet sane during the endless festivities.

For now, I'm entering my food into to keep track of my calories. I have it set at a range that I "should" lose 1 pound a week. I actually stopped my weight loss a few pounds before I reached my goal, so I've decided to finish it out and hit my goal. Hopefully by Thanksgiving I'll hit that goal without too much struggle. Then I plan to continue the same eating through the rest of the year, but allow myself on the actual holidays to enjoy the spread. Note the emphasis on the day. Not Thanksgiving week or Christmas month, but the day of a family celebration to celebrate. And the rest of the days focus on eating a healthier calorie range.

It's easier said than done. I have a bag of pumpkin kisses in my freezer just begging me to be polished off while watching season 3 of Glee. And right now my real feelings toward losing are something like "it would be really nice if that happened" versus last year's "I'm just going to put my head down, plow through, and do this."

I'd like to hear other thoughts on how people navigate food culture during celebrations.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What creeps in

It starts like a trickle. Little compromises. A nibble of cookie at the office. A little extra helping of supper. A latte just because. And "suddenly" our weight and habits are right back to where we started, and we are left wondering "how did I gain this weight back?"

Why do 95% of dieters gain back the weight? I think it starts one compromise at a time. I can't count the number of times I told myself "one little bite won't hurt" or "this brownie doesn't really make a difference." But it does. And when I finally lost the weight I really grasped that concept. That was one of the keys for me when it came to losing the weight. To realize that each bite really did matter AND that I had to be honest about what I was eating. The calories in that handful of chocolate chips count whether I write it down in my journal or not.

Recently I found those old thought patterns creeping back in. "This handful of chocolate chips won't make a difference." And honestly, if I include them in my daily calorie count and balance it with exercise, I can have some treats. But if I start absentmindedly nibbling on chocolate and chips or other snacky things without accounting for them in my overall calorie count, I'm going to be shopping for bigger pants.

So it's taking the discipline to include each indulgence in my food journal...and to be able to say "no" to excessive intake of chocolate.

Besides chocolate, the other goodie that started creeping in come in liquid form. It's so easy to ignore the calories in a latte or Gatorade because it is liquid. In fact, the country's waist lines have been expanding in large part due to the increase in size and variety of caloric beverages. And I find myself (especially as the cold sets in) wanting to have a coffee type beverage several times a day. Coffee itself is calorie free and relatively harmless. But add in some whole milk, sugar, and flavoring and it goes from non-harmful to "show me the elastic band pants". My goal is to say no to the drinks most of the time and ask myself "is that really worth 360 calories and $5??"

Eleven months after my weight loss journey began and six months after reaching my goal my scale is staying in my maintenance zone. It still takes consistency and vigilance, but it is worth it.