Wednesday, November 18, 2009
My Story, Part 8 In Conclusion: Final Reflections
It's been very hard work, dedication and a revamp of my life to get where I am, and I'm not done yet. My goal is to be 120 pounds with 22% body fat. This means I need 93.6 lbs of lean mass (muscle, bones, organs) and 26.4 lbs of fat.
Being obese was a huge hit on my self-esteem. I felt discriminated against. I believe most of it was subconscious, and a very minor amount was outright malicious. Either way, it sucks.
It's clear to me what they say about weight loss being a lifestyle change is true. Diets didn't work. Changing my life did. I have to be very serious and honest about what I am willing to do, and what I am willing to eat because I have to do it forever. I'm not drinking Slim Fasts to lose weight, because I can't stand the thought of drinking them everyday. I'm not giving up beer and wine. I drink a glass with dinner. I'm not giving up burgers and pizza. I have a single slice of pizza, or a single patty burger every once in a while.
This is moderation. However, when I first started, I had to get rid of the junk. I was not able to do moderation. I did not have the self control. I was addicted. Having it around was not helping me. It was hurting me. Slowly, over time, I have been able to incorporate more moderation, but while being very conscious about not letting it take over my life.
Even when I eat pizza or burgers, I'm more choosy about what I eat. Because the calories I consume have to be worthwhile, I only eat high quality pizza or burgers. I avoid Pizza Hut or McDonalds. I love wood fired neopolitan style pizza, which has a thinner flatbread crust and higher quality ingredients. I enjoy 1-2 slices. I make my own burgers at home with a food scale and high quality ground beef.
I don't starve myself. I eat 1200-1600 calories per day. I lose inches and weight.
I make meals at home, and I go for making high quality meals. Veggies don't have to be bland and boring. I go for 'healthy gourmet'. Brussel sprouts halved and sauted in a pan with a splash of olive oil, slice of lean ham, and chopped shallots. It's fantastic. It looks gourmet, tastes gourmet, and yet it doesn't break the calorie budget. I enjoy taking favorite recipes and finding ways to make them low calorie and fabulous. Eating healthy can taste good!
I used to be the typical girl that was afraid of lifting weights because I didn't want bulky muscles. Now I love strength training because I love what it does to my body. It makes me look lean and toned. And smaller.
For activities, exercise isn't just about the gym. It's about living life. I kayak, bike, hike, rollerblade, ski, dive, snorkel, or just plain walk. I do not enjoy running, I never really have, so I don't do it. I don't like the impact on my feet and knees. It is unlikely I will ever join a marathon.
If you don't like running either, then you don't have to. If there is nothing at all you like to do, I'm not sure what to tell you. You'll have a tough time. Find something you like to do. I started off by playing the game Dance, Dance Revolution. People scoffed at me - "That's not exercise". The heck it ain't. It improved my balance, coordination, and cardio fitness. How does that not count? Think outside the gym. When you were a kid, did you ride a bike because you needed to burn off your peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Or did you ride your bike because it was fun?
I do 30 minutes of gym time 3-4 times a week Monday-Friday. I do something fun and adventurous on the weekend. Hike a new trail. Walk around a park. Ski. Something that takes about 3-4 hours to do. I look forward to doing it all week. It's not a chore. It's not something I have to do to get my calorie burn in. I want to do it.
While originally I may have been driven to lose weight because I hated how I looked and how I was treated, now I am driven by performance. I absolutely love the activities that I have learned to do. I want to be better at doing them. I can go backpack-camping further and longer if I lose an extra 10 lbs. Backpacks with gear usually weigh about 30-40lbs. I don't need another 10lbs on top of that. My bowling ball weighs 10 lbs. I would not take my bowling ball camping with me!
If this is what it took for me to lose the weight, then this is what it takes for me to maintain it. If I stop eating this way and doing activities, I will gain weight.
I have a problem with portion distortion. Changing behaviors is extremely difficult. This is one that I have learned how to work with. I divide my plates into quarters. 1/4 meat of my choice, 1/4 starch of my choice, and the rest are veggies. This has worked very well for me.
We went to an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica and I did not gain weight. How is this possible with endless buffets? I used my quarter portioning strategy. Believe me, I ate tons of delicious fatty food, just less of it. I wasn't deprived or eating like a bird. I ate a plate of salad with every meal. I sampled a couple of bites of desserts, but not huge plates. I did fun activity every day - kayaking, diving, biking, snorkeling or plain old beach walking.
I setup checkpoints to catch me slipping. I threw away my oversized clothes. When I fell into my old habits, getting squeezed in my clothes was a trigger to remind me I need to do something about it.
I resumed counting my food and fitness calories. I don't mind doing this. I love journaling. This is just another type of journal, and I'm happy to keep it a part of my life. If fast food starts showing up frequently, this is another checkpoint that says 'danger! danger!'
I love my life. I love living this way. Can I live this way forever? Yes. Can I guarantee it? There are no guarantees in life. I may slip again. If I do, I'll just have to pick up where I left off.
Each time I stalled in my progress, I needed something to propel me forward again. Once it was because of a broken life I needed to reboot. Another time, it was humiliation. The next, it was a warning sign that old habits were returning. There were plenty of stumbling blocks and opportunities to give up.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite motivational chinese proverbs:
"Fall down 7 times; stand up 8."
The future has yet to be written!
Thank you so much to everyone that has taken the time to read my stories. Your encouragement has inspired me to continue telling it. Thanks for letting me share! I've really enjoyed meeting new friends, and hope that we will continue to motivate and inspire each other in our individual journies for better health and happiness!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
In writing my blog posts about my weight loss story, I don't think I mentioned in great detail what my eating disorder is.
If you put it in front of me, I will eat it. All of it. Like a starving alley cat, I will eat anything. I am not picky.
I grew up poor. My parents are both high school educated. They worked manual labor jobs. I remember one year when my dad was out of work, we were so poor, the only thing my parents could afford to give me to eat was a bowl of rice, soy sauce and a pat of butter.
My dad got a better job, but we still lived frugal. I was eating better nutrition than rice and soy sauce, but that memory never really left me.
I can't waste food. Starving children in Africa guilt and all.
So when I got a restaurant portion with 2-3 servings on it, I cleaned it off. Every morsel. No matter how big or small the plate.
My solution I learned is to cut everything on my plate in half. When I eat my cut portion, I stop and get a take out box. I eat the rest for lunch the next day.
Still, it is very, very hard for me to resist the impulse to eat it all. If the server is slow with the box, I may end up continuing to take bites of what's left. Once it's in the box, I'm safe.
When cooking at home, I learned to segment my plate into quarters. 1/4 meat of my choice (fish, beef, or chicken), 1/4 starch of my choice (potato, corn, rice, or bread), and the rest are veggies. That way, I can eat everything on my plate and everything is still properly proportioned.
When going to buffets, I do the same thing.
I clean off my plate and satisfy an inner yearning to eat everything put in front of me, but it's balanced properly.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I lost 30 pounds, found a new love of fitness and adventure, and a new love to share it with. My life was back together.
Old demons lie sleeping, though. They never really die or go away. Humans are creatures of habits, and each of us have our own rhythms.
My demon nearly sent me back to the past.
After we came back from our Jamaican vacation, we set into a different rhythm. Yet, a familiar tune.
Over the summer, we hiked Mount Si and he hurt his back. After climbing the mountain, his back muscles tightened up like a coiled string. He could barely walk for a week. After that, he became wary about going on long or strenuous hikes. Thus, we didn't go as often as we did previously.
Winter set into Seattle. I've tried many times, but when the Seattle winter rain comes in, I do not like walking or riding my bike. I've been told to get good rain gear. I tried, but I still don't like it.
We could have gone to the gym, but didn't.
The result: we became less active.
He started working a lot of overtime. He worked 60-80 hour weeks because his project was badly managed and behind. Disenchanted with my job, I came home angry and depressed often. I didn't feel like, or didn't have time, to cook. We ate late night happy hours at restaurants for dinner. We ate chicken wings, nachos, and copious amounts of margaritas. Ordering dinner plates, why eat half when I wanted to eat it all?
(Whoa. What happened here? Is this blog #7 or #1? Hello, déjà vu.)
I stopped tracking food and fitness calories on Spark. I thought I was cured, and didn't need it.
The result: we gained weight.
Mine is a clever and stealthy demon. I didn't know it. It wasn't revealing itself on my scale.
My scale weight wasn't changing. I stepped on the scale and thought I was doing fine, because it wasn't moving. Still reading about 130-135, which was normal.
When I lost fat, the scale didn't move much, but my clothes became looser. When I gained the fat, this happened in reverse. My scale didn't move much, but my clothes became tighter.
The demon of atrophy and happy hour snacks slowly consumed muscle that made me looked toned and trimmed. It was replacing the muscle with fat, while keeping me the same weight.
This is why the scale is a terrible measure of fitness alone. It is a tool, but you have to look at it along with all the other evidence.
The evidence was clear: I wasn't exercising or eating right. I gained fat.
I ignored the tightening of my clothes. I ignored the increasing muffin-top.
Two paths were available to me. Return to the familiar path and know exactly where I would end up - 160lbs. Or take a different route and keep on truckin'.
We took a picture of a reunion with my outdoor group friends. I saw a strangely familiar sight of an unflattering thickening thighs from behind.
A memory stirred.
I drove home from work and my leg nearly fell asleep. My thighs were being compressed in my jeans.
A memory stirred.
I was in a clothing store and stopped at a pants rack. I picked up a size 10 pair of pants. I thought, "Maybe I should get this so I can be more comfortable. I've got to get back on my diet and to the gym. I'll start this weekend."
I snapped wide awake out of a familiar nightmare. I've heard this before. A familiar promise of demons I thought had been laid to rest.
I donated my size 14, 12, and 10 clothes with the intention that I would never, ever be that overweight again.
I looked at the size 10 jeans and a flood of memories came back. A relationship that drifted and faded into unhappiness. Out of control spending. Heartbreak. Rejection. Tears. Despair. Loneliness.
What would it cost me? Would I trade an experience of whale song in Maui? Confidence to learn to scuba dive? Learning to soar down a mountain on a pair of skis? A new life that I loved?
A pair of size 10 jeans once was a symptom that took me down a path of out of control unhappiness. It could happen again.
I put them back on the rack. There was another way.
I got home and said, "Let's go for a walk".
We walked. We went to the gym regularly. I suggested he get a personal trainer to help him with his weak back.
Turned out his back problems weren't due to a weak back at all. It was due to weak core muscles. All of the muscles in our body are designed to work as a system. If one group of muscles is stronger than another, it can cause all kinds of problems.
Typical for men, he worked only on his arms and legs during strength training. He didn't do 'girly' exercises like situps. Situps strengthen your core muscle group, probably the most important system in your body. You can't stand up straight without your core muscles. You can't balance on one leg. If your back muscles carry the work of weak core muscles, you end up with overstrained back muscles. His personal trainer said he had the worst balance of anyone he had ever trained.
After a number of sessions with the PT strengthening his core, he got out of bed and said he felt a "twang" in his back like someone plucked a guitar string. It hurt like hell. Then he felt fine. He hasn't had a single back problem since. We don't really know what it was, but we figured it was tendons that got stuck together like a rubber band, then finally pulled apart from all the stretching. OUCH.
I resumed counting calories and fitness minutes. It's clear this is something I have to do, or else my demons reawaken. I'm ok with this. I bought a GoWear Fit to help me analyze my activities during the day better. I resumed Martha Stewart Sundays, chopping and prepping fruit and veg for the week. I control my portions. I drink plain coffee, and like it that way.
My scale weight isn't moving much, but my clothes are fitting better.
To Be Continued, In Conclusion: Final Reflections
Monday, November 16, 2009
If you've been following my tale from the beginning, you know that when I first had a serious weight problem, I was obese at 160lbs on my 5'0" frame. This was brought on by bad eating habits mostly due to eating at restaurants and supersized fast food. When my boyfriend and I split, I was left with the baggage of 160lbs and a lot of debt.
I dropped to 130lbs through a lot of emotional and physical ups and downs. I changed my eating habits and adopted a better lifestyle. I lost the weight and paid off the debt. The key is, I wanted to live this way. I wanted to eat fresh vegetables and fruit. I wanted to be active and explore the world. I wanted to eat delicious meals and my favorite foods, just less of it. I wanted to do this forever. This wasn't a diet, this was changing my entire life.
The more active I became, the more I wanted to do. Living in the gorgeous northwest, there were so many things available for me to try from sea to land to sky.
I took kayaking lessons. I went on a wonderful kayaking day trip adventure where I explored wetlands and inlets in the Puget Sound. I saw a pair of bald eagles, the very first with my own eyes. I saw a pair of young bald eagles playing in the sky. I saw more varieties of birds than I could count. I saw a pair of seals playing in the water, watching us in our kayaks curiously. I felt more free and alive than I had ever been in my life.
I traveled to Maui on a kayaking/snorkeling trip. There is a picture in my profile. It's probably my favorite kayaking/snorkel trip to date. I went in January, and a humpback whale pod was in for the winter. A giant mother whale and her baby swam around our kayaks. I saw their tail flip up and splash in the water, just like you see in nature videos! They swam circles around us. I got the feeling they were 'human watching' as much as we were 'whale watching'! When we got out of our kayaks to snorkel, I dunked my head underwater, and I could hear their whale song. It was so LOUD. I wondered if they were talking about us. "What are those?! What are they doing, mom?"
I saw a giant manta ray with about a 6 foot wing span 'fly' right under me while we were snorkeling. So gorgeous and graceful. I felt like I was living a nature video. Would the old me have dared to try this?
While I was having a great time exploring and adventuring with my new found fitness, I was lonely. I wished I had someone to share the adventure with.
I didn't know how to meet the kind of guys I wanted to date. The bars were not doing it for me. I wanted something substantial, not superficial.
I got over another fear I had: online match making. I joined Match.com.
Just like the gym, it wasn't the horrid experience that I thought it was going to be. It doesn't have to be that way. I found I had a lot of control over who I wanted to meet, and how we did so. I only met a guy for a first meeting at a very neutral spot, and only for a short, casual encounter. A coffee shop on a Saturday morning, or for a happy hour beer. We could chat, and then setup another more private date for dinner if we clicked. If not, then we only spent an hour of our time and moved on, no pressure. I only met someone at a neutral, public location that I never frequent in case of weirdos. If we didn't click, then they would be unlikely to find me again.
I liked it better than 'traditional' dating, in some ways. I was able to screen out guys that didn't interest me right away. It was really important for me to find someone interested in kayaking, camping, traveling, hiking, biking, and more. These were things that had become important to me, and the key was I wanted to share this with someone. They didn't have to be a super athlete - I would find that too intimidating. Just an average guy looking for some outdoor fun. So, I weeded anyone out who sounded like a couch potato. I did not want to go back that way. I wanted someone who ate healthy, but not too much of a health nut that they can't have a beer and a burger every once in a while.
At 160lbs, I was invisible to men. At 140lbs, I was a nice girl, but not dating material. At 130lbs, I was getting my groove back. I started catching extra long stares in the corner of my eye, double takes, goofy grins, and responsiveness to flirting. I set up a lot of Match dates, and it was an amazing ego boost. A ton of the dates didn't work out, but the feeling of getting ready for a date and meeting people was wonderful. I tried a lot of new restaurants (dutch only, I'm a modern gal), and got to see more of Seattle.
Eventually, I found the guy that 'clicked'. He became the guy that I was spending more time writing to, and calling. We spent more and more time together. Soon, I didn't spend much time looking on Match for new contacts, or setting up new dates. I called him first to see if he was busy for the weekend.
I joined a hiking/camping/general outdoor club. They were going camping on Mt Rainer for a weekend. I was really excited about this, I'd never really been camping before! I invited my new guy to come with me. He accepted.
We went shopping at REI for camping gear. We both didn't have any. We bought the same, matching single person tents. No, we weren't going to share a tent - this isn't that kind of story!
We went to Mowich Lake on Mt Rainier. The first day, the group went hiking and we stopped at a gorgeous, idyllic lake for lunch. In the evening, we barbecued chicken, burgers, and Korean kalbi. We looked at the stars, and I taught my special friend a few constellations that I knew. I could feel myself growing quite fond of him, a little extra twitter in my heart. At some point in the night as I was alone, I saw a shooting star. I made a wish. I wished for a future with this guy and I. This was the summer of 2006.
I got my wish. We stopped dating others. We moved in together. We continued to go hiking and camping. We biked and kayaked. We went to Jamaica and I learned to scuba dive. I earned my open water certification in 2007. I learned to ski with him. I grew up in Colorado, but never had the nerve to ski until I moved to Washington! For you northwesterners, I learned to ski at Snoqualmie.
It was everything I wanted. Who's afraid of turning 30? My 30s have been the best years of my life! If I had known what I was capable of, I wonder what I would have done in my 20s. I'm reminded of the George Bernard Shaw quote: "Youth is wasted on the young."
Everything was going great.
To Be Continued, My Story, Part 7 History Threatens to Repeat Itself
Friday, November 13, 2009
I got rid of my size 14-12 clothes after buying new clothes because I was determined never to rebound back. If clothes were a little uncomfortable, I hoped that would be a trigger to remind me it was time to do something about it. I did not want return of the slow creep.
Getting rid of the junk food was supposed to deter me from mindless snacking. It worked, for the most part. I made it less convenient for me to do so. There were times immediately after throwing everything out that I had urges and cravings. I was almost desperate to have a sugary candy bar. It was no longer immediately accessible. I couldn't go to my pantry and have a chocolate bar, then decide it tasted so good I wanted more.
There were times when I absolutely had to have a candy bar. Had to. I was going to go crazy without one. Because it wasn't in the house, I had to leave my apartment and walk to the convenience store down the road to get one. At least I had to walk! I merrily ate my candy bar, satisfied. My nature to gravitate towards laziness worked in my favor in this instance. Sometimes, I got a desperate craving for a candy bar, and be too lazy to get up and walk to the convenience store. Each time I did this, my desperate craving to have a candy bar eventually faded. I went less and less.
I read an article about how to become an early riser. It said to set your clock to the time you want to get up, then get up at that time every day. Do it for 30 days straight, even weekends, and it will become habit. Your body becomes accustomed to it, and you just naturally wake up at that time, ready to start your day. I wondered if this would work with eating habits as well.
Eating junk food had become a habit, something I had learned. I was accustomed to it. I expected food to taste rich, sweet or fatty. I wasn't used to the taste of vegetables and fruit, which weren't sweet enough to my empty calorie palate.
I adopted a rule - no calories from drinks. This meant juice and soda. Only water, tea or plain coffee.
I hated plain coffee, but I wanted to drink my coffee plain to follow my no drink calorie rule. I bought premium coffee from the store and made it at home. Even then, it took getting used to. The first time I took a sip, I almost gagged. I wanted to add sugar and milk. I stuck with it. If I wanted coffee, I ordered it plain. After a while (30 days?), it worked. I was accustomed to the taste of unsweetened coffee. I tried a sweetened drink and almost gagged - it was *too* sweet.
Every once in a while I get an urge to get a high calorie latte. What stops me? I know how many calories are in it. I know how long it takes on the elliptical to burn it off. I know how long it took me to lose this weight. That's usually enough for me to keep ordering plain coffee.
This is why losing the weight gradually has kept it off. It was difficult with a rollercoaster of emotional ups and downs for me to get here, and I'm not finished yet. Blood, sweat, and an ocean full of tears. If it had been easy or quick, I wouldn't have learned anything. For me, it's not worth the calories. I just really want the caffeine from coffee anyway. Rarely, I do get a short (small) mocha.
I readjusted my palate for salads. I wanted to eat salad with no salad dressing. Salad dressing was the enemy. This was a hard habit to break. I had to, and still do, need some sort of flavoring on salad. I found a squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of olive oil, pepper, and fresh basil mixed in tasted delicious to me with no added calories. Balsamic vinegar also works well. This still took me some time to get used to, but it's a new habit now. Salad with heavy dressing tastes too rich.
Eating more fruits and veggies is easy in Washington. Outside of California, it has a widest variety of farmers markets and fresh locally grown fruits and veggies on the west coast. Every weekend in the summers I would go to the farmer's markets and get season fresh veggies and fruit. One thing I noticed about farm fresh produce: they taste sweeter and 'brighter' than supermarket produce. The zucchini was so fresh, it tasted good raw. It was easy for me to adjust to making steamed vegetables with no added butter. They tasted good without it. Same thing with fruits. I was shocked the first time I bit into a plum and so much sweet water ran out of it. I was used to eating supermarket plums that were dry and bitter because they were picked under ripe. Eating fruit that was just picked made it so much easier to incorporate into my diet. I left fruit bowls where my cookies used to be, and snacked on the fruit when I got hungry. It's a habit that I still keep today.
I learned to cook healthy, quick, delicious meals watching the Food Network on cable. I worked a full time job in the tech industry, which has funky hours and a lot of overtime. Typically, I said that I didn't "have time" to cook and make healthy meals. I decided that I was going to make time. I had time to play computer games and watch tv, surely I could make dinner. My favorite shows on the Food Network were "30 Minute Meals" by Rachael Ray, "Good Eats" by Alton Brown, "Emeril Live", and "Calorie Commando". "30 Minute Meals" is the one that absolutely changed my life, though. It was perfect. I learned how to prepare a quick meal from prep time to cook time by emulating Rachael.
All those farmer's markets veggies I would buy and prep on the weekend. I called Sunday my "Martha Stewart Sunday". I chopped up onions and bell peppers and put them in a container in the fridge. When I came home during the week, all I had to do is throw the onions and peppers in a pan to saute, then add whatever ingredients I wanted for a meal.
Using my food scale, I measured appropriate portions of steak and starch, and ate as many veggies as I wanted until I was full. I'm so used to seeing a 3-4 portion of steak now, that anything bigger looks too big. When I get a 12 oz steak, I can't believe I used to eat all of that on my own!
In the process of doing this, I saved a ton of money, which also helped me with my debt problem. Steak is expensive. I bought a 1 pound steak and cut it into 4 pieces. I had 4 nights of steak for essentially 1/4 the price.
I'm eating more northwest fresh salmon these days than steak.
I finally got the nerve to join the gym. You know what? It wasn't this crazy pseudo-athlete place I thought it was going to be. True, there are some 'pickup joint' gyms where people are there to show off their hot bodies - avoid those. I joined the YMCA. There were no pseudo-athletes or pseudo-supermodels; only regular people of all shapes, fitness levels, and ages there to get healthy. No one judging me or anyone else.
There were women aged 60-80 who were there every morning for a water aerobics class. They looked strong and healthy. Very inspirational.
Oh, and I found SparkPeople! I quit e-diets and joined Spark. It's free! The message boards are very lively and informative. The support from friends is uplifting and keeps my spirits high. The articles are extremely high quality. The food and fitness calories are very well developed and extensive. I'm still surprised when I search for food and dishes that I'm certain aren't going to be there, and there they are!
I dropped to about 130 pounds, and paid off my debt completely. Old boyfriend and bad lifestyle baggage officially gone! I donated the size 10 clothes and bought brand new size 8s. Woo!
To Be Continued, My Story, Part 6 Finding Love Again
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