Too much exercise?

Even though I eat well and work out at least 5 times a week, for the past several months I’ve seen nothing but small losses on the scale as reward for my hard work: .6 lbs here, .4 lbs there, with a full pound loss thrown in every now and then for good measure.

When my body first began transitioning from consistent 2 pound losses per week (when I had more weight to lose), to more sporadic, smaller losses, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t frustrate me.  Then last year, I began a vicious cycle of gaining a pound or two only to lose them and gain them right back, so lately I’m thrilled with the consistent – albeit smaller – losses on the scale.  I’m sticking to my Weight Watchers program and continuing to find new ways to challenge my body, whether it’s increasing the incline on the treadmill when I run or discovering new, more challenging bike paths in the area.  And it seems to be working, even though the weight is coming off painfully slowly.

Then last week, I was struck with a severe sinus infection. I found myself struggling just to stand up without excruciating pain and pressure, let alone lace up my sneakers and go for a run.  Last Monday I thought my stuffy nose and migraine were allergy related, so I pushed myself through a gym session.  I took a turn for the worse on Tuesday, and did nothing but curl up on the couch with a blanket and stare at the television all night.  On Wednesday I felt guilty about skipping the previous day’s workout, so I forced myself on a 30-minute bike ride that seemed to take upwards of two hours to push through.

On Thursday I finally went to the doctor, and realized it was more serious than just a cold or allergies. I spent the next four days popping ibuprofen and taking antibiotics – and doing little else.  I tried to stick to my normal eating regimen, but I didn’t so much as take my dog for a walk.  Every movement seemed to intensify my pounding headache and nasal pressure, so I gave myself permission to make like a vegetable and plant myself on the couch.

Despite my lack of activity, I attended my usual weigh-in last Sunday morning, even though I had never skipped that many workouts in one week since I began my journey back in 2007.  As such, I was expecting a gain, but knew I could probably chalk it up to being sick and my physical inability to exercise.

Much to my surprise, I lost 1.8 pounds.  I haven’t shed that much weight at once since my first week back on program after my epic “but it’s the holidays” binge of 2009.

Needless to say, I was completely shocked…and a little annoyed.  Don’t get me wrong – I was thrilled with the loss. But I was furious that I could work so hard for minimal results and then do absolutely nothing and lose 2 pounds.

I suppose it could have been a fluke.  It could be a few weeks of serious effort but lackluster losses catching up with me.  Still, I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was instead some kind of sign to stop pushing myself so hard.  I beat myself up for spending less than an hour at the gym each day, and all for a loss of .8 (if I’m lucky) at the end of the week.  But then I get sick and just focus on my food intake for seven days, and drop almost 2 pounds as if it were nothing.  Is that my body’s way of saying I’m exercising too much?

Part of me wants to play a little experiment with the scale and go another week without exercise.  But then the other part remains adamant that losing weight and getting healthy is not about playing games with a scale. I exercise because it keeps me healthy and I genuinely enjoy it, not because it helps me fit into smaller jeans.

And that’s the truth – I no longer feel like myself when I don’t incorporate at least some form of physical activity into my day.  I’ve become addicted to the way exercise makes me feel, and the way it makes my body look.  Where I once stared at images of supermodels in magazines and longed to be “skinny” like them, these days I ogle the athletes’ bodies pictured in magazines like Women’s Health and wonder what I could do to build lean, muscular arms or toned thighs like theirs.  I stare at their bodies and assure myself if I keep working hard that someday I, too, might be able to sport such a fit, toned physique.

Not to mention, I honestly wouldn’t want to start skipping workouts and dealing with the irritability and lack of energy that I now experience due to lack of gym time.

Then again, it’s my dream to lose these “final forty” pounds and experience life at my goal weight…and even possibly go on to become a Weight Watchers leader.  At this stage in my weight loss, part of me just wants to get it over with.  As much as I enjoy being able to stroll into any store and know they have my size, I hate trying on a fabulous dress or a nice pair of pants and having to wonder if they’ll still fit when I’m done losing weight – or how much it might cost to tailor them.  I’m tired of people telling me I look “amazing” just as I am and that I’ll look “sick” if I lose anymore, when I know just how far I have to go.  As much as the idea of having to maintain my weight loss scares me, it still would be nice to know that, for once in my life, I actually finished something that I started.

The good news is that last week’s loss brought me back into the 90-pound zone, where I haven’t been in about a year.  A 100-pound loss is once again within my reach, and now I’m just hoping that achieving that goal won’t mean having to sacrifice my favorite foods – or my love affair with the elliptical.

Loss to Date: 91 lbs

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Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Too much exercise?

  1. Lisa

    Maybe your 1.8 for this week has more to do with WHAT foods you ate… Take a look back at your journal or whatever you use to track you food and see what is different from a normal week. I know sometimes when I get in a rut and eat the same things over and over again, I think my body gets tired of it and then I don’t see the same results as I do when I really put some variety into my menus. Just a thought… 🙂

  2. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks so much for your advice, and for checking out my blog. What baffles me is that I did just what you said – I looked through my journal (I use the Weight Watchers on-line tracker), and saw it was essentially one of my ho-hum, typical weeks. (I, too, know all about getting stuck in a food rut, that’s for sure!)

    HOWEVER…the one thing I did notice was that I wasn’t feeling well enough to eat out over the weekend. Since I weigh in on Sunday mornings, I’m especially careful about what I eat on Friday and Saturday nights – but that never stops me from having a meal out with my boyfriend on one or both nights.

    I was thinking that perhaps my lack of restaurant meals while I was sick – even though I do make good choices and try to stay away from sodium when I dine out – could have had something to do with my great loss. Not that I’m going to avoid going out to eat now, but definitely something to think about…

    I’d really love your input – if you have Twitter, feel free to follow me! I post my blog updates there. I’m @jenniferlnelson

    Thanks again! 🙂

    Jen

  3. Felisha

    Hey! I had a big loss, too, which was surprising because I ate all my WPA. I’m doing something scary and trying that again. It may just be my body getting shocked by eating more, and/or I may gain this week, but oh well. 🙂

    How many AP’s do you earn a week? You are impressive. 😉

    Hope you are feeling better by now!

  4. Hey Felisha!

    Yes, I’m feeling MUCH better. Thank you! 🙂

    That’s fabulous, congrats on your loss! My theory is to eat all the points you have now, because believe me when I tell you that as your daily points target drops and you NEED to eat those APs and weeklies, you may have trouble continuing to lose because your body has become accustomed to shedding weight without them. Starting to eat them later in your weight loss journey could confuse your body into thinking you’re eating more food than usual…which, as we all know, might not be such a good thing.

    In any case, don’t feel bad about eating your WPAs – they’re built into the program because you can eat them and STILL lose! I’d continue doing EXACTLY what you’re doing. Mine are almost always allotted for weekend dinners out, and honestly, I lose much better when I DO eat them than when I try to cut back and leave them untouched.

    Let’s see…I use a Polar heart rate monitor so I can see exactly how many calories I burn during each workout, and I try to keep it to at least 500-600 calories burned (or 5-6 APs). Then I eat at least half of the APs I earn.

    So, that makes (hold on, let me get my calculator…haha), 40ish APs a week. Most of which I then proceed to eat. 🙂

    Jen

  5. Felisha

    Haha, well, whether you eat them or not, they are impressive! 🙂

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