Posts Tagged With: obesity

Running Makes You Stronger. Period.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend! The weather kind of sucked here in NJ (except for Monday), but I did get to spend some time in Atlantic City and catch a Third Eye Blind concert…I’ve been obsessed with them since middle school, and pretty much stalk them every time they come around!

It probably sounds kind of strange, but despite the fact that I’m a blogger and basically broadcast my life all over the Internet on a weekly basis, in “real life,” I’m actually a pretty private person. I tend to keep to myself, and have a hard time sharing my feelings with others…and that includes my family and closest friends. But I am a writer…so stick me in front of a computer, and it all just comes pouring out.

Still, writing this particular post is going to be a little difficult for me, and yet, I feel as though I can’t continue posting with my own special brand of candor and honesty here without at least mentioning that I’m going through a really tough time right now.

I promise, this will not be a “woe is me” kind of post. Instead, it’s something I need to share because it’s a major life change…and my personal weight loss and running journey factor directly into how I’m dealing with it all.

2001

2001

My boyfriend and I have broken up. Out of respect for his privacy, I won’t go into all the sordid details, but suffice it to say that the outcome of our almost 12-year relationship (we were high school sweethearts) has been looking pretty grim for quite some time. We’ve been struggling with various issues for years, and this was honestly the only course of action that was left, unfortunately…I think ending things might even do us both a lot of good.

Since we lived together, it’s hard to say we’re “broken up” when I can sit in my apartment and still see a lot of his clothing and movies and books still lying around, or his posters hanging on the wall or countless framed photos capturing all of our happiest moments, from high school proms to college graduations to vacations and trips (including, of course, our various jaunts to Disney World).

2007

2007

It’s also hard for me because I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the loss of a person who has been in my life for over a decade. He has been there for me through it all…he was my shoulder to cry on when I lost my beloved grandparents, my support system when I began losing weight (for the final time) on Weight Watchers, my cheerleader when I saw my very first published byline in a magazine and crossed the finish line of my first race, the best friend I could always turn to for a laugh or to vent or to hang out and do absolutely nothing.

Needless to say, I am heartbroken. Anger, disappointment, shock, hurt, devastation, disbelief, sadness, rage…you name it, I feel it. I don’t want to be melodramatic, but obviously, this is the man I pictured myself marrying and building a home with and having kids with and growing old together. I desperately wanted all of those things…and I’d thought he was “the one” since I was 16 years old. But right now, let’s just say I have amassed ample evidence to suggest that he simply does not feel the same way about me. And maybe he never truly did. I don’t really know.

2013

2013

There’s nothing I can do about any of this except to learn how to cope. For the first time in my life, I have to learn how to be on my own. And I can’t help but think that there was a time in my life when all of this would have utterly crushed me. I used to hate the sight of my morbidly obese body, and had managed to convince myself that I was worthless. That I had nothing to offer the world. That I was destined to be miserable forever.

There was a time in my life when something would upset me — the bullies at school, a fight with a friend, a bad grade, you name it — and my first (and only) response would be to grab a handful of Oreos or dive headfirst into a bag of Doritos. Eating was how I coped with life’s disappointments, and it was the only thing that could soothe me.

Today, however, I know that no matter what happens — even something as devastating as the end of a relationship in which I’ve invested nearly half of my life –  I will survive. I know that I will be okay. And I’m convinced that running has a lot to do with that.

Losing 90 pounds (and, more importantly, keeping it off) has empowered me to believe that you can change your life, and that your health and happiness are worth fighting for.

My love of Thai Kickboxing and Taekwondo have taught me that, at heart, I amthaifront truly a fighter, and that I am disciplined and motivated enough to achieve anything I want in life.

But when it comes to running…that’s what forced me to realize that I am so much stronger than I ever thought possible.

Any runner knows that our sport can be just as much mental as it is physical, and training my body and my mind to endure 5Ks, then 10Ks, then half marathons — when I used to be someone who would avoid stairs at all costs, and found all of my personal pleasure from raiding the refrigerator — has proven in no uncertain terms that I am STRONG. I transformed myself from an overweight high schooler who physically couldn’t complete the mile in gym class to an adult who runs 13.1 miles like it’s no big thing. I slowly but surely changed absolutely everything about my life, and taught myself how to live as a healthy, active person.

And that’s how I know I can handle anything life throws my way. When life knocks me down, I know I have the courage and tenacity inside of me to get right back up again. I am not a quitter, and I don’t let anyone else dictate my sense of self-worth.

I do believe running has changed the person I am, both inside and out. After the years of torment I endured as an obese child and teenager to the countless failed dieting attempts to hitting rock bottom as a 265-pound 22-year-old, I feel as DSCF3043though running has given me and my entire journey a purpose.

I believe I was meant to discover running as my way of finally making peace with my body, and as a way to love and celebrate the person I am. I feel so incredibly grateful to have found something that fulfills me and gives me a sense of well-being — no matter what happens in my life, I know that I can always reach for my running shoes.

So, in conclusion…I’m going through a tough time right now. And it has hurt me. But I will not let this crush me.

After all…I’m in training. Three months until the Dumbo Double Dare!

Has running ever helped you through a tough time?

In what ways has it changed your life?

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Why I Love Running

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d proclaim the reasons I’ve fallen head over heels for running.

(I better love it, seeing as how ONE WEEK FROM TODAY, I will be headed down to Walt Disney World to take on my very first half marathon!)

1.) The way I feel when I’m done. Sure, sure, the running part is great and all, but whether I’ve gone out for a 2-mile run or a 12-mile run, there are no words to express the way I feel when it’s over. Call it runner’s high, call it endorphins, call it whatever you want, but I am addicted! I never feel more confident than when I can spend some time in my running duds and come home all sweaty and tired and sore and…proud.

2013-02-06 13.59.372.) The new relationship with food. It’s no secret that I used to have a serious weight problem; I spent most of my life struggling with obesity, and trying every trick in the book to gain control over my unhealthy eating habits, from fad diets to good old-fashioned starvation. Now that I’m a runner, I am forced to see food for what it truly is: fuel. Gone are the days when I obsess over every carbohydrate or scour the supermarket for the latest and greatest in fat-free snacks; I understand now that my body needs carbs and fats and all of these other nutrients — in moderation — to perform at its best.

3.) The sense of accomplishment. There is little in life that makes me as proud as the moment when I cross the finish line of a race, or when I head out for a 10- or 12-mile run and actually finish. It doesn’t matter whether I PRed or struggled through every mile — I get to constantly experience the joy that comes from setting a goal and seeing it through every time I sign up for a race or take on a new distance. There’s nothing like proving to myself over and over again that I CAN do this.

4.) The community. It has been so rewarding to communicate with, and learn from, fellow runners, who are always so willing to share their tips and encouragement. Coming in from a bad run to see that I have a new supportive comment on my blog or an encouraging tweet from another runner helps more than I could have ever imagined. It’s so much fun getting to share my new obsession!

5.) The stress relief. I’m definitely not known to be a relaxed, carefree person — I’m pretty much the exact definition of someone with a Type A personality, and have always tended to be just a tad high-strung. But not when I’m running. Lacing up my sneakers and going out for a run is a time for me to unwind, decompress, and maybe even work through the problems of the day in a calm, rational way as I’m traversing my usual running routes. Don’t get me wrong, running can certainly be physically exhausting, but it really can help soothe the mind. Even my mind.

6.) The body acceptance. Thanks to my lifelong weight struggles, I’ve always been pretty hard on myself about my body (read: I’ve loathed it with a passion). Even after my weight loss, I focused on imperfections like residual stretch marks or loose skin instead of seeing what was right there in front of me: a strong, healthy body. Running makes you appreciate everything your body is capable of achieving, and it has helped me develop an acceptance for what I have — and for that, I am eternally grateful. I’m not saying I have the perfect body, or that I ever will, but I’ve finally been able to break the cycle of striving to be “skinny” — instead, I focus on being the strongest, fittest (and, yes, even fastest!) runner I can be.

7.) The empowerment. I don’t think I need to say that running is HARD. WORK. But proving to myself that, yes, I could run a 10K, or yes, I could make it to double-digits in my long runs, makes me feel as though I could accomplish ANYTHING. Because running can be so physically grueling, and because it is a physical activity that was never, ever possible for me — someone who has always been obese — conquering my fear of taking on new distances and proving to myself every single day exactly what I am capable of achieving when I set my mind to it is incredibly, unbelievably empowering. I was the girl who couldn’t run the mile in gym class in high school, who was pointed at and laughed at for huffing and puffing my way around the outdoor track four times and still finishing last. And today…I am training for a half marathon.

8.) The travel. Of course, I had to mention this one! I can see now that running just pairs so nicely with my desire to travel and go places and experience new things. I am beyond thrilled to be able to combine my love of running with my love of, oh, I don’t know, say Disney World, and am excited to participate in races and meet other runners from other other parts of the country (and, no, I don’t just mean my upcoming trip to Disneyland for the Dumbo Double Dare).  My running journey has been nothing but exciting and fulfilling, and I look forward to where it might take me next!

Your turn. What do YOU love about running?

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The Right to Bare Arms (and Stomach, and Thighs…)

As the summer months officially come to an end, I decided it was finally time to step back on the scale.

And, unsurprisingly, I was greeted by an additional five pounds.

It’s what I was expecting, given my week-long jaunts in Vegas, Atlantic City, and Orlando, the endless string of barbecues and late-night fro-yo runs, my less-than-rigid workout routine. Now that I’m back into the swing of things — my long-awaited return to Weight Watchers, first and foremost — I’m fully confident that I’ll ditch those extra pounds (and then some) in no time.

That’s what still continues to amaze me. For the first time in my life, if I see the number on the scale nudge up a bit, I don’t panic. I don’t say “the hell with it” and start eating everything in sight, as I’ve done so many times in the past. I simply chalk it up to a few (okay, maybe more than a few) poor eating choices and lackluster workouts, and I pledge to get back on track ASAP.

I can finally acknowledge that I’m strong enough to lose (and re-lose) weight. I believe in myself. Who knew?

The truth is, this summer marked a whole new leg of my weight loss journey…even if I didn’t actually lose any weight. Whether the scale is moving or not, it seems nearly every day I’m slapped with a new realization about my body and just how much has changed.

Yesterday, for example, on a somewhat chilly afternoon that didn’t exactly warrant capri pants, I was amazed to pick up a pair of jeans from last year and easily slip them on. No lying on the bathroom floor trying fruitlessly to yank the zipper up, no jamming my rolls of flesh into the too-tight waistband, or rubbing raw indentations in my stomach after I removed them. I stepped right in, zipped them up, and was on my way.

And all this after so many years of having to buy a larger size for school every September, or sheepishly “losing” last season’s jeans, or — I’m ashamed to admit — destroying more pairs of pants than I can count when my denial about needing a larger size led to popped buttons or seams that blew open.

For the third September in a row, I’ve been able to re-wear clothes from the previous year, and that, to me, is an ultimate victory.

But this summer, perhaps my greatest achievement is that — for the first time in my 26 years of existence — I was confident enough to sport a bikini top at the beach.

Now, before you get too excited, let me preface this by stating that I had to search far and wide for a top with the extra coverage I still craved (athletic-style suits did the trick!), and I still felt the need to camouflage my generous thighs and loose, stretch-marked paunch with a high-rise skirted bottom. But who cares? I’ve worked hard for the body I have at this very moment — even if it isn’t “perfect” — and I don’t care who sees it.

Then there’s the fact that it’s almost surreal to me to do a load of laundry and fold my size small — SIZE SMALL! — tank tops from Old Navy. My summer uniform once consisted of baggy t-shirts or short-sleeved polos hidden beneath cardigan sweaters, for fear that anyone should catch so much as a glimpse of one of my behemoth, saggy arms. I sometimes can’t believe that I’ll slip into a strapless dress or racerback running tank and walk out the door without a second thought. My Muy Thai uniform is sleeveless, and where I would once be mortified to be waving my bare arms around for all the world to see, now I can look in the mirror — even at my loose tricep skin — and accept the way my arms look. Sometimes, at just the right angle, I think they even look pretty strong and muscular.

Oh, and then there’s the small detail that I ran not one, but two races this summer. And I already have a few other 5Ks lined up for the fall. At my very first race, a four-miler on the Fourth of July, I met my goal of jogging the entire course. Granted, I wasn’t the fastest runner, but it didn’t matter — I gathered up my courage and was able to squash my self-doubt long enough to cross that finish line, and I’ll be damned if I let 10-minute miles spoil that.

Did I mention that I even had the audacity to wear shorts to that race? Me, good old “Thunder Thighs,” wearing shorts. In public! Oh, the humanity.

Bikinis, shorts, tank tops — and, certainly, running races — were things I never thought possible. I was, after all, a 22-year-old shopping in the Women’s Plus section for swimsuits, and constantly pretending I was cold to justify wearing long sleeves or ankle-length capris in August. There was a time not too long ago that I couldn’t run a single mile without gasping for air, and now I’m breezing through 5Ks as if it’s completely normal for me to be running alongside other athletes.

Believe it or not, I am slowly but surely beginning to accept my body. I know I’m by no means thin, and I never will be. Maybe I have no business baring so much of my body at the beach or flapping my batwings in kickboxing classes, but for the first time in my life, I’m not constantly obsessing over how every little inch of my body looks at every moment of the day.

My tummy flap and jiggly thighs are clearly here to stay, and I’m finally making peace with the fact that I will never have the “perfect” body, no matter how much more weight I lose.

But guess what? I think I might just be perfectly fine with that.

The important thing is that my weight is no longer holding me back from anything I want to do or achieve in my life, and I’m excited to see just what else I can accomplish on my journey.

With or without the cooperation of a scale.

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My Inner Battle with Obesity

It’s no secret to anyone here that losing “the final 40″ has proven a challenge that I have not yet been able to conquer. Granted, I now have my sights set on the “final 30,” but completing my weight loss journey is a goal that has continued to elude me…for nearly three years now.

Atlantic City, 2007

I continually experience periods of ups and downs — no pun intended — where I’m following my Weight Watchers program to the proverbial “T” and the scale is moving (ever so slowly), but then it’s immediately followed by a week, two weeks, or more, where various family celebrations, vacations, or perhaps even good old-fashioned frustration cause my efforts  to wane.

And, soon enough, I’m right back to where I started: I’ve been bobbing between an 85- and 90-pound loss since summer 2009.

So, why haven’t I thrown in the towel? Believe you me, the thought has crossed my mind. Don’t get me wrong: I’ll never, ever allow myself to go back to being a 250+ pound woman, but I could have easily quit Weight Watchers a long time ago and continued to live my life as a size 8/10, active young woman who by all intents and purposes is “normal.”

But then there’s the small matter of the fact that, oh yeah, I still weigh 175 pounds.

Now, when I was 267 pounds, I was, not surprisingly, considered obese by any standard BMI chart.

And today, thanks to my 5’4 frame, a weight of 175 pounds means that that I am still — believe it or not — obese.

Atlantic City, 2011

As much as I tell myself “it’s just a stupid chart” or “weight is just a number,” at the end of the day, I am desperate to finally be rid of the “obese” stamp that has been slapped on my forehead since the second grade.

My excessive weight has been a burden I’ve had to carry ever since then, and frankly, I’m sick and tired of looking in the mirror and knowing that deep down, I’m obese.

It’s a little secret that I carry with me as I scarf down my POINTs-friendly grilled chicken and veggie meals and hit the gym six days a week. No matter how healthy I eat now, or how intense my martial arts training has become, I’m still not the athlete that I dream of becoming.

I’m finally starting to realize that I’m worthy of something more. But I’ll never reach my goals until I can identify the mental block that’s keeping me from digging in my heels, losing the rest of this weight, and saying good-bye to the “fat” girl forever.

I no longer care about squeezing into a size four, and I know that I’ll probably never weigh 130 pounds, but I want so badly to just be truly “normal.” I may prance around in teeny halter dresses and two-piece bathing suits now, but regardless of what I look like on the outside, I know that I won’t feel truly successful until I am finally and forever stripped of that “obesity” label.

So, here’s to a renewed effort to finish what I started. Wish me luck!

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Goal Weight

I lost .2 at weigh-in this morning.  Once again, I was expecting more – I had a particularly good week.  In fact, according to my scale at home, I was down a full pound as of yesterday morning. 

But then I went out for dinner last night to celebrate my boyfriend’s father’s birthday, and even though I was careful and followed all of my own rules about dining out (see my post about Surviving Restaurants), I know from experience that a bigger meal the night before weigh-in typically results in a small loss or a slight gain.  But refusing to go out to dinner would, to me, be like letting the scale control my life – so even though I didn’t get the number I wanted, I still know that I had a great week.  I’ll just have to deal.

This morning I weighed in with a receptionist who has lost over 120 pounds, and has managed to keep his weight off for many years.  He really seems to “get” it when it comes to what it takes to maintain weight loss, and is always quick to offer encouragement, support, and advice when I visit him at the scale. 

He knows I’ve been on Weight Watchers for over two years, but today was the first time he has ever asked if I’ve set my “goal weight” yet.

(For those of you who don’t know, you must set a goal weight that falls within an appropriate BMI for your height in order to begin your “maintenance” phase and attain “lifetime” status on Weight Watchers.  Your only other option is to present a signed doctor’s note to your leader that indicates you can weigh something beyond what their BMI charts indicate.)

I immediately came back with an “absolutely not.”  I told him that I know I’m nowhere near where I need to be, and I’m not ready to nail down a number just yet.  I truly believe that a large part of my success on this program comes from not obsessing over the big picture.  When I first started losing weight, instead of stressing over the fact that I needed to lose over 100 pounds, I instead focused on losing just 5 pounds at a time.  I poured all of my efforts into losing 5 pounds, then 10, then 15, then 20 and moving forward from there.  These mini goals were attainable, and thus I never felt overwhelmed by the road ahead.  I knew I’d be more likely to quit if I sat down and actually thought about the enormity of losing 100+ pounds, and what it was going to take to achieve that goal.

He asked me my height, and I told him I was 5’4.  He looked down at his BMI chart and said, “oh, wow, that’s another 30 pounds you would have to lose.” 

He then looks up at me and says, “you know, you’re so thin already, you don’t want to go too far.”  He advised me to consider getting a doctor’s note as soon as I reached a weight where I was “comfortable.” 

Most people would have taken this as a compliment.  My mind was reeling that someone would ever refer to me as “thin!”   However, I perceived this as him telling me that I can’t do it.  Surely he must mean that he has no faith that I can lose 30 more pounds.  He has been watching me struggle with the same 5 pounds for a year, so he’s essentially telling me I should focus on losing a little bit more weight, get my doctor to sign off on whatever the scale says, and throw in the towel.

As much as I would love to think that I could lose 10 or 15 more pounds and declare myself at “goal,” at the same time, I don’t want to feel as though I’m giving up just because it’s difficult, or that I’m taking the easy way out. 

My main reason for wanting to lose weight wasn’t to wear cute clothes or get hit on at the bar.  It wasn’t to fit into a size 2 or weigh any particular number.  I wanted to lose weight because, for the first time in my life, I wanted to be “healthy.”  All I wanted was to feel confident enough to look someone in the eye when I talk to them,  or have the ability to get up off the couch and do something.  Of course I’m thrilled that I can shop in any store now, and that I’m not too self-conscious to wear girly dresses or bare my arms in a tank top, but my ultimate goal is to experience life not at someone who is “obese,” not as someone who is “overweight,” but as an average-sized, healthy, physically fit person. 

I want to know what it’s like to be comfortable in my own skin.  I want to be able to look into the mirror and see a lean, muscular body that’s capable of running and lifting and – someday – bearing children without endangering my life.  I want the energy to tackle the demands of each day, and the initiative to chase down my dreams.  It’s a shame that I have to try to put a number on all of that.

These are the things that matter to me – not what some stupid plastic box or a BMI chart says.   

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Twilight Zone

After I weigh in at 8:30am on Sunday mornings, I enter what I like to call the “twilight zone” of weight loss.

Essentially, it’s the one time a week when any and all food items I consume simply don’t “count.”  I’ve just had my weekly weigh in, and there’s a whole seven days until I have to step on that scale again.  I pledge to go back to counting POINTS and working out on Monday, but until that time, I do not concern myself with how many calories are in the two slices of spinach-topped pizza I’m have for dinner, or the mocha (lite) frappuccino from Starbucks I slurp while raiding the magazine rack at Barnes & Noble that afternoon.  The calories, apparently, just vanish into thin air.  My family and I always go to IHOP for breakfast on Sunday mornings, and I delight in an egg white omelette, whole grain pancakes topped with sugar-free syrup, and coffee with skim milk.  I often enjoy every last bite of it, and I don’t even think about how many POINTS I’ve just eaten.

For lack of a better expression, I give myself the day “off.”

That isn’t to say that I gorge myself on candy and ice cream every week, but instead that I loosen the reins a bit and don’t allow myself to obsess about the fat and calorie content in the day’s meals and snacks.  I also take Sunday as my one day off from the gym.  It’s not a free-for-all, but rather a day of bending the rules a bit. 

If I’m handed a yummy treat during the week (the chocolate chip cookies from my previous post, Cookie Monster, for example), I may stash it away to eat the following Sunday.   It’s not that I can’t have it during the week, it’s just that a 3-POINT cookie may not fit so easily into my daily menu.  (For the record, I have eaten exactly ONE of those cookies.  It was delicious and I wanted another very, very badly, but I stopped myself.  Now that’s progress!)

Is all of this the right thing to do?  Probably not.  I’m pretty sure there’s nothing in the Weight Watchers handbook that encourages this kind of behavior.

But for a long time, it worked. 

The extras I consumed on Sundays never seemed to show up on the scale at my next weigh in, and certainly my body deserves a day to recover from all the cardio and strength training I do Monday through Saturday.  Having one day where I gave myself permission not to obsess over every little thing that passed my lips, or feel guilty for not subjecting my body to pain at the gym, was a big part of what kept me sane and satisfied throughout the week.  Another bonus is that a lot of family parties and other weekend gatherings just so happen to take place on Sundays, so I knew I could indulge in a small slice of birthday cake or a couple of hors’doevres guilt-free.

Here’s the thing, though.  While this strategy used to prove effective week after week, as soon as my weight loss started to stall, I knew that I would have to stay out of the twilight zone.  I promised myself every Sunday morning that I would start to actually look up the POINTS for the quart of chicken and broccoli I planned to have for dinner, or at least try to estimate the calories I’d be piling on my plate at that anniversary party, but then week after week after week I simply elected not to do it. 

I started reading articles about people who allowed themselves one “cheat” day (although I would never call it that) during the week and still lost over 100 pounds, and trainer Bob Harper from The Biggest Loser once said on the show that having one high-calorie day each week could shock your system enough to actually speed up your metabolism when you got back to eating healthier the next day.  Supposedly, some of the contestants do this regularly on the show – they just don’t let us see it. 

I used these as excuses and just continued on my merry way, and each time the scale didn’t show the loss I wanted, I convinced myself that it had nothing to do with what I had eaten last Sunday.

No more.  This is clearly no longer working for me, and I have to stop.  Once the “honeymoon phase” of weight loss is over, it’s easy to stray from your once strict eating and exercising regimen, and start letting things slide – and that’s exactly what has been happening to me. 

If I ever want to get the scale consistently moving in the right direction again, then I’m going to have to leave my comfort zone behind and shake up my routine. 

And that means kissing my Sunday twilight zone good-bye for good.

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Gains Happen

At this Sunday’s weigh-in, I was slapped with a 1 lb gain. 

Actually, allow me to rephrase that.  It was a 1 lb undeserved gain. 

In the grand scheme of things, a single pound is nothing.  It’s a measly 16 ounces.  I’ve been at this for more than two years now, so I know better than to get upset by the daily, hourly, and even minute-to-minute fluctuations of my body weight on a scale.  What I weigh at 9am is not the same as what I weigh at 11am, or 3pm, or 10 pm. (And, yes, I have actually weighed myself at all of those times…and have seen my weight fluctuate 5 lbs or more during the course of any given day).

I know from experience that eating canned soup or chinese food affects my weigh-in, the clothes I’m wearing affect my weigh-in, and drinking too much water affects my weigh-in. 

Heck, wearing green or painting my fingernails can make me gain weight.

(Okay, so I’m exaggerating.  But sometimes it does feel as though I could so much as look at a scale the wrong way and have it show a gain. )

When you step on a scale, the number you see staring back at you reflects just one moment in time.  There are dozens of factors that can affect the number in that moment.  You can stick to your weight loss efforts to a “t” and still gain.  You can limit high-sodium foods for two days before weighing yourself, or step on the scale in your skivvies, but there’s still absolutely no way to predict how and when your body will give up its weight.  You can have a great week and gain, or a not-so-great week and lose.

It’s just the way the human body works, and there’s nothing any of us can do about it.  All we can do is control what goes into our mouth and how much time we spend engaged in physical activity.

That’s why I try not to get discouraged when I work hard for a week  without any big pay off on weigh-in day.  Granted, it’s frustrating, because it seems to take weeks of eking out .4 or .2 losses to add up to a pound – so to gain one back in a single week is just plain unfair! 

The way I deal with these gains that occur even after a perfectly good “on program” week, as my fellow Weight Watchers might say, is by keeping things in perspective. 

Okay, so I kicked my butt at the gym this week, and stuck to my allotted daily, weekly, and activity POINTS.  In theory, I should have lost.  Maybe I ate something too heavy the night before.  Maybe I’m retaining water.  Or maybe I really didn’t eat as well as I thought I did.  Who knows? 

All I do know I’ll just have to keep trying the best that I can, and hope that my efforts pay off next week.  I could try to do things differently (switch up my workout regimen, for example), or I could take comfort in knowing that it probably was nothing I did or didn’t do…the scale just didn’t work in my favor at precisely 8:30am on Sunday morning.

After losing 90 lbs, fluctuating a pound or two in either direction doesn’t seem like such a big deal.  But for those of you who haven’t lost a significant amount of weight yet, just keep in mind that this is one week of the rest of your life.  That’s seven days.  Your journey to better health is an ongoing process, and you will have weeks where you slip up. 

Losing weight – and keeping it off – is about making better food choices and being more active.  It’s not a week-to-week scale contest.  What’s the rush?  Time is going to pass either way; why not spend it trying your best to be healthier? 

One reason I don’t get disappointed by these hiccups in my weight loss record is that I don’t allow myself to set timed goals (“I’m going to lose 50 pounds by bikini season!”).  I also don’t play games with the scale by starving myself the night before I weigh-in, or stripping down in front of everyone at my Weight Watchers meeting.  It’s just not worth it.

Sometimes I party a little too hard on the weekend and “deserve” a gain, and sometimes they happen unexpectedly, but either way, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that gains will happen, no matter how well I eat or how much I exercise.  All I can do is accept the gain, move on, and keep plugging away at my weight loss goals. 

There’s no turning back now.  If I threw in the towel every time the scale showed that I was up a pound or two, I’d probably still be getting stuck in roller coaster seats and splitting my pants – an utterly humiliating experience that happened more than once, I’m ashamed to say.

That’s why, for me, there is no giving up.  It’s this…or obesity.

(Oh, and for the record, the scale may have shown a gain this week, but my jeans are definitely feeling looser these days.  There are other measures of success!)

Loss to date: 87.6 lbs

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Surviving Restaurants

Since I started my weight loss journey, I’ve made it a point to continue eating out in restaurants regularly.  While the over-sized, fat-laden meals at restaurants can be kryptonite to those of us trying to lose weight, dining out has always been a big part of my own personal weekend time…and I’m never going to be willing to give that up entirely.

While Tuesday night takeout and Thursday night pizza have all but ceased, my boyfriend and I still go out to dinner (or at the very least pick up five dollar footlongs) on Friday nights and Saturday nights, and I often indulge in a quart of chicken and broccoli and brown rice on Sunday evenings. 

I’ve never been a big bar or club girl.  Instead, I get my jollies from searching out moderately-priced BYO restaurants where I can relax and talk and catch up – and, well, eat yummy food – with friends and family.

I love to eat.  I love going to restaurants.  So I figured I had to find a way to make restaurant meals part of my weight loss efforts – or I’d never be able to stick with my new lifestyle.  What I discovered was that there truly is a way to dine out more than once a month and still shed pounds.  Here are some of the things I do:

1.) Google the restaurant.  Most restaurants post their menus, some complete with nutritional information, right on their website.  The nutritional information for many chain restaurants can also be found on websites like Diet Facts or Calorie King.  That’s when I compare my options and determine the healthiest (and most POINT-friendly!) meals, complete with salad/soup options and possibly even dessert – try sorbet or frozen yogurt, fresh berries and cream, or a fruit-based slice of pie.  Of course, depending upon how they’re prepared, chicken or fish (which I don’t eat) are almost always healthier options that will leave you feeling more satisfied than, say, a heaping bowl of white pasta with garlic bread. 

I often skip cocktails, appetizers, and desserts, but sometimes I go out with friends who do elect to partake in the extras, and it’s much easier for me to join in – without the temptation to splurge on creamy spinach and artichoke dip or molten chocolate cakes - if I’ve already committed to my order in advance. 

2.)  Search for “healthy” words. There are certain key terms I look for when scanning a restaurant menu: grilled, steamed, baked, lean, broiled, whole wheat.  Look for chicken, fish, or pasta prepared with lemon, garlic, herbs, or other seasonings as opposed to entrees doused in rich, creamy sauces.  Go for marinara or marsala sauces instead of alfredo or hollandaise. 

If you’re unclear how a dish is prepared, ask your waiter.  One particular chain restaurant we frequent has been known to pour butter all over their side of “fresh steamed broccoli.”  They do not advertise this, of course, but when their on-line nutritional information indicates that the broccoli is several hundred calories, you start connecting the dots (not to mention, butter on veggies tastes damn good…and I can certainly tell the difference.)  I asked the waiter how the broccoli was prepared, she confirmed my suspicions, and from now on I ask for no butter on my vegetables.  Another chain dumps hollandaise sauce on an otherwise innocuous spinach and mushroom omelette.  It’s simple: ask for no sauce. 

3.)  Just Ask.  That brings me to my next point.  Don’t be afraid to open your mouth when it comes to ordering your food.  Ask for your meal to be prepared without oil, ask for dressings and sauces on the side, or ask to swap the french fries that come with your turkey burger for a baked potato or a side salad.   Request that croutons, cheese, and salami be left off your house salad (and try dipping your fork into the dressing instead of pouring it on!)  At breakfast, order “dry” whole wheat toast instead of white toast that has been slathered with butter.  See if the chef will prepare that delicious pasta dish with whole wheat pasta, or if you can get your veggie wrap in a whole grain wrap.

The moral of the story is that most restaurants are more than accommodating, and as long as you’re polite, your waiter will be happy to bring you a meal that’s exactly the way you want it.  You’re shelling out your hard-earned money on this food – so why not get what you want?

4.)  Watch portion sizes.  Some people ask for a take-out carton as soon as their food reaches the table.  I prefer to keep my portion-control issues to myself, so I often physically divide the meal in half on my plate.  I eat the first half, put down my fork for a few minutes to gauge whether I’m still truly hungry, and then go from there.  

I’ve always been a meat and potatoes kind of gal, so I simply stick with lean cuts of steak, like top sirloin, and opt for the six oz. cut instead of the 16 oz cut.  

You can also use visual cues to determine portion sizes.  Think of a deck of cards when digging into protein, and make a fist to see how much pasta you should enjoy from that gargantuan bowl your waiter just brought to the table.

I also make it a point to keep my hands out of the bread basket, and if I’m having Mexican, to portion out just a few chips (and plenty of salsa) and put them on a separate plate to avoid mindless munching.  Believe me, those extra bites can add up really quickly!

5.)  Bring your own.  Okay, okay, so this may be a tad excessive.  However, I’ve been known to toss “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter” spray in my purse before hitting up the local diner for breakfast, so that I can enjoy my side of grits without blowing 100 calories on a single pat of butter. 

Some fellow Weight Watchers tote their food scales or serving spoons around so that they know exactly how many ounces of chicken they’re eating or how many teaspoons of cream they’re pouring into their coffee. 

My boyfriend and I almost exclusively seek out BYO restaurants, which not only saves us money but also allows me the luxury of knowing exactly how many POINTS I’m drinking.  Bringing my own Chardonnay also eliminates the temptation of yummy apple martinis and other sugary cocktails that pack hundreds of calories a pop. 

Dozens of Splenda packets are buried at the bottom of my purse, and I always pop my own popcorn and sneak it into the movies.

(Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do!)

6.)  Slow down.  Ask anyone who has ever dined with me, and they will confirm that I am probably the world’s slowest eater.  My boyfriend has devoured his entire meal before I’m finished tasting my third or fourth bite.  My method is to take a bite, put down the fork, take a sip of water, and then proceed to the next.  When you’ve had your fill, flag down the waiter ASAP for a take-out box, or physically push the plate away from you.

Eating slowly makes dining out a more fulfilling experience.  Not only can you focus on chatting with your companions, but it gives the brain plenty of time to signal to your stomach that it’s full – a process that has been scientifically proven to take upwards of 20 minutes, believe it or not. 

7.)  Have a snack.  One surefire way for me to end up overeating at a restaurant is to show up famished.  If I’m utterly starving when I sit down at the table, I’m much more likely to order soup, salad, appetizers, dinner, and dessert.  The hungrier I am, the more tempting everything on the menu suddenly sounds, and the harder it is for me to order wisely.  While, in theory, it makes sense to “save” your daily calories/POINTS for a restaurant meal, I can tell you from experience that if you starve yourself all day, that plan will backfire the moment you get that menu in your hands.

While I try to lighten up my usual meals on days I know I’m going out to a restaurant, I always have a small snack right before I go.  Sometimes I munch on a handful of Kashi crackers or a light string cheese, or grab an apple or banana to eat in the car on my way there.   I eat just enough to tide me over, but not so much that it’s going to ruin my appetite (as if that were even possible!).

8.)  Indulge (sometimes).  This all isn’t to say that I haven’t been known to swipe a roll or share a dessert.  If there’s something you really want, you can have it.  Just be sure to make better food choices throughout the rest of your day, or by spending a bit more time in the gym that afternoon.  

If you’re trying to lose weight, that doesn’t mean you have to skip out on gabbing with girlfriends over a hearty Italian meal on Friday night, and it doesn’t mean you have to tell your hubby that you can no longer go out for breakfast with him on Saturday mornings.  Restaurant dining (and eating in general) is such an integral part of socializing with friends and family – not to mention co-workers - in our society, and I’m always saddened when someone confides to me that they make up excuses to get out of going to company luncheons or birthday celebrations for friends because they don’t feel they can eat at a restaurant without blowing their weight loss efforts.

While I have to be even more careful about what I order when dining out (I do weigh in on Sunday mornings, after all!), I’ve managed to lose 90 pounds while still eating out at least three times a week.  Trust me, it can be done!

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There is No “Only” in Weight Loss

On television and in magazines, we’re constantly bombarded with “lose weight FAST” schemes and promises. 

Swallow this pill, drink this powder, or have this frozen meal plan delivered to your home, and you’ll lose 12 pounds in two weeks.

We’re obsessed with shows like The Biggest Loser, where contestants have been known to drop 20 pounds in just seven days.  It’s a  “reality” show, so surely those results can be attained by eating well and working out on your own, right?

As a society, we’re pressed for time…and we want instant gratification.  We want to reap the desired results without actually having to do the work.

We’re all looking for a shortcut.

That’s precisely why people often seek me out to vent about how they’ve “only” lost a pound this week, or they’ve “only” lost five pounds this month.   They embark on a particular weight loss program, stick to it for a mere 10 days, and then complain that they haven’t dropped a dress size yet.

But here’s the thing.  Absolutely no method of weight loss is magic…despite what you see and hear on TV. 

Weight loss is a long-term committment.   It is a slow, arduous process.  It takes conscious decision-making every single day of your life - even on the days when you’d rather have fries than a side salad with lunch, or the nights you’re just too exhausted to head to the gym after work. 

I wish I could say that it gets easier.   Beginning my weight loss journey was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and two years later, it continues to be an uphill battle for me to remain focused and committed to my goals. 

Sometimes it is truly a struggle to choke down vegetables and drink skim milk, or to get in the car and drive to the gym, when all I really want to do is chow down on chips in front of the television.  Sometimes I gaze longingly as my friends slurp down margaritas and nachos, while I nurse my rum and diet coke and munch on the celery that’s served on the side of buffalo wings.  Sometimes I don’t feel like counting POINTS.  Sometimes I don’t feel like spending another 20 minutes on the treadmill. 

But I always try to do the best I can.  Often I’ll work my butt off and lose a pound, a half a pound, or even nothing at all.  Many weeks, I end up gaining. 

That’s why – despite my perfectionist personality – I make it a point not to complain about “only” losing .6 pounds.  Losing weight is extremely difficult, and even the tiniest budge on the scale is a success. 

When I weigh-in on Sunday mornings and lose two pounds, I celebrate.  When I lose half of a pound, I celebrate.  When I’m told that the scale is clocking me in at just .4 pounds less than last week, I celebrate.  A loss is a loss is a loss. 

Have I ever been surprised or disappointed by the number on the scale?  Of course!   But as far as I’m concerned, any negative scale movement is a victory. 

This isn’t a race, this isn’t a contest, and this certainly isn’t a “reality” show.  This is your life. 

And I can promise you that the effort is well worth the reward.

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Real Runner

When I was bigger, I used to judge healthy, active people all the time. 

I’d see runners pounding the pavement along the main drag through town, or at the nearby park, and I’d drive by and silently berate them. 

“Who do these people think they are?” 

If I happened to be driving with someone else, I’d crack a joke.  “They should just go eat a cheeseburger already.”

Before embarking upon my weight loss journey, I would laugh in the face of anyone who exercised for fun.  My idea of a strenuous workout was taking my dog for a walk around the block - and I did so only because he was begging for one, not because I wanted to exercise.

I didn’t see the point of exercise, and even if I wanted to join a gym, I didn’t see how I would ever find the time to make it there.  The idea of squeezing myself into spandex capris and a restrictive sports bra and getting all sweaty simply did not appeal to me.  Besides, why waste the limited down time I have working out when - thanks to digital cable – there are more than 500 channels to surf? 

Last night, I wore my running capris under my jeans because I knew I could probably squeeze a 40-minute run in between appointments in the middle of my day.  I stashed my iPod, water, and vest in the car, and wore my sports bra, heart rate monitor, and workout top underneath my regular clothes.  I couldn’t wait to crank up the music and feel the cold air against my face. 

As I approached the shimmering, icy lake, and took in the sunset, I couldn’t help but stop for a minute to reflect on how far I’ve come.

I had actually planned – and looked forward to – going for a run. 

I get so caught up in my frustration over not yet being at my “goal” weight that sometimes I don’t realize just how much progress I’ve made.  I forget how drastically my life has changed since deciding once and for all to get my weight under control.

When I look in the mirror, I still have  a hard time seeing a healthy, fit person – and I’m very hesitant to call myself a “runner.”  Despite how much my day-to-day life has changed since I joined Weight Watchers, and how much smaller my body is now, I still can’t seem to shake the memories of the “old” me…the girl who wouldn’t be caught dead engaging in any form of physical activity, and who certainly wouldn’t plan her day around a visit to the park! 

Today, I can’t wait until 1pm.  I’m going to enjoy a healthy lunch, slip into my workout clothes, and go for a jog around town.  I have some letters to mail and I’m out of stamps, so I’m going to incorporate my errands into my workout.

…I don’t even know who I am anymore.

As I pass my fellow exercisers on the trail and we nod politely to each other, I often wonder what they’re thinking of me.  Do they see my big thighs under my sweatpants and assume I’m  just here to burn calories because I need to lose weight, or do they (mistakenly) assume that I have thick, muscular legs because I am a bonafide runner? 

Two years ago, I would avoid climbing stairs because I knew how long it would take to catch my breath afterwards.  I was always looking for the shortcut to avoid any extraneous walking.  Despite how amazing I feel about myself, and how genuinely addicted I now am to exercise, sometimes I think I’m still that girl.

None of the other runners at the park know my story.  They don’t know how life affirming a simple jog truly is to me.  They don’t know that just two years ago, attempting to run could have been seriously dangerous to my health. 

Sometimes feel like an imposter; I assume the “real” athletes at the gym or the park are looking at me and wondering why the heck I’m there.

But not last night. 

Because for the first time, I was truly a runner.

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