Finding Harmony

Changing how I eat has been a great learning experience for me and my stomach. I’ve been able to think about it differently, too, now that I’ve found new foods that I love and are so much healthier for me.

I find that in a lot of ways, with eating especially, people tend to focus on what they’re not having. It’s about restriction and sacrifice in order to meet a goal. Really, isn’t that what most fad diets are? Keto is focused on not having carbs. Low-fat diets are focused on not eating any fat at all. Paleo focuses on eliminating anything a caveman wouldn’t have eaten (processed foods, breads, etc.).

For certain, everyone’s diet is made up of things that they do eat and things that they don’t. It’s just become glowingly apparent to me recently that focusing on what I’m not having isn’t helpful for me. I actually stopped even worrying about what I wasn’t eating a few weeks ago. Menus at restaurants got a little smaller based on what I AM eating and it’s ended up being easier to choose what to order. I’ve been learning so much about what makes me feel good that all I want is to pick those things.

I really think that this is the best thing I’ve learned over my journey so far. It’s not about what I’m not having. It’s all about finding a balance, a harmony, with what really feeds my body and what I enjoy eating.

So what if I’m not really eating dairy? I’m pretty sure it makes me bloated and no one needs that. Plus, I had a yogurt today and it was pretty gross so no thanks.

Sometimes I don’t eat meat at all. I’m cool with it (a meal can be complete without animals, for what it’s worth). I’m not running around and calling myself vegetarian or vegan or anything but I’m fine with not having meat. I haven’t had any today, in fact.

I feel like in this process of elimination, I’ve really been able to discover a plethora of foods that I had been ignoring. Like vegetables and whole grains and fruit smoothies and muffins that are so hippie it hurts. So maybe that’s why I don’t want to focus on the things I’m not eating. I really love what I am eating, and isn’t that the part that matters most?

6am

Quickly, quietly, and without any lights on, I slip from the bedroom into the office where I quickly shut the door. I’m not sure how well it seals in the sound, but in my head, it’s like I can barely breathe until I’m divided away. I want this time for me but I know he prefers to keep sleeping.

And then, I sit. My socks, that I wear to bed every night, save for the hottest summer evenings, get pulled off gently to allow my feet to stick to the mat. It’s dark when I begin but I know that by the time I end, it won’t be. My corner of the world will wake up with me. Gently and gracefully.

The double window in the office provides a sweeping view of the rest of the neighborhood. Perched at the top of our hill, with the window facing the houses and streets that cascade below, I see everything. Well, not yet. It’s still early. But I will see everything in time.

Without any light, either outside or in, I close my eyes while I sit cross-legged on my mat. My eyes are notoriously terrible in the dark. I was once on a long car ride to Maine with my boyfriend (now husband) and when it got dark, he asked if I’d like him to take the wheel for a while. I agreed and not much longer after that we were streaming along a mountain road. He started to slow and, not seeing anything ahead, I asked why. He said “Seriously? You don’t see that moose in the road?” and I felt red and ashamed that my eyes had failed to spot such a gigantic beast.

In the silent house with my eyes closed in the dark, all that I can hear is my breath and the fan of the heat when it decides the house is too cold and the temperature must be fixed. And I begin what is a practice of muscle strength, concentration, will, balance, and peace. Moving from posture to posture, working out quirks as I go, and coming up with new ways to hold my frame to get the greatest boost.

The sun begins to rise and the dark blue sky shades lighter with pale pink and lilac on the edges and I begin my sun salutations. They raise my heart rate enough that I sweat just a little. It creates heat in my arms and legs as the sun, now hitting the horizon, adds copper and golden tones to the sky.

When I’m finished with my set and standing at the top of my mat, the sun’s rays are now hitting the tree tops and I can see smoke rising from chimneys. Some rooms in the other houses are lit from the inside now with the stirrings of morning.

After a few final postures I finish on the floor, sprawled out in a relaxed position usually relegated to bedtime but brought out at dawn to solidify both body and mind before the day ahead.

And then his alarm goes off at 7am and I know that the rest of the day has been set in motion. The sun is up, I am up, and I am finally, truly awake.

50 Pound Anniversary

A year ago today I woke up to the sound of my alarm just like every other work day. After I shut off my phone’s alarm, I navigated to various apps (Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit–in that order) to see what had happened in the hours since I fell asleep. It wasn’t anything of note but it had become my morning routine while I lay in bed waking up.

Eventually, the nagging of my bladder drew me out of the comfort of bed to seek relief. Another part of what had become routine for me was to weigh myself after using the bathroom but before eating breakfast. I got up, put on my glasses, peed, took off my clothes (so as not to add any extra weight), and stepped on the scale. Of the hundreds of mornings that I’d done that, a year ago today was different.

A year ago today, I saw the scale reach 150 pounds. My goal.

A year ago today, I could officially say that I lost 50 pounds.

That morning last January could have been any day. In fact, until I’d gone through my ever-vigilant weight loss tracking notes, I’d forgotten the date that I hit the milestone. It was a day when I reached a goal and the day when I had nothing left to work towards. I was there. I made it. Sure, I kind of wanted to lose 10 more (and I ended up losing three more before backsliding–we’ll get to that) but I had done what I didn’t think I could do a year and a half prior. I had worked on my eating patterns and kept going with them because I knew I couldn’t revert back to how I’d eaten before.

On this January 30th, that day seems so far away and the journey that I traveled in order to get to that day can’t even compare to the struggles I’ve had with food since. I can tell you that I know why people lose weight and gain it all back. I have been lucky and I haven’t, but I know how it can happen.

When I was on the hunt to lose those 50 pounds, I was determined and I quickly found a rhythm. I followed that rhythm to the point that I didn’t have to think that hard about it. I just woke up every day and did it. It was awesome. It felt easy and like I’d unlocked the secret. The pounds fell away week after week and it just worked. I learned how to lose weight and I mastered it.

But after that goal, I was faced with challenges that I’d dare anyone to meet up with and not bend a few times.

The first challenge was the cruise that my husband and I went on after we eloped. From January 30th until we got on that cruise ship nearly two months later, I held strong. I splurged a little here and there because I knew I could without destroying everything but when we stepped aboard that ship, I no longer had control over what I fed myself. I was at the mercy of their menus and their mealtimes.

I drank more wine and beer than I’d had in a long time. I ate more pizza, burgers, and desserts than I could tally up. And when I got home I saw that I didn’t gain anything. That was the worst thing for me.

The mentality that worked for a year and a half of weight loss broke that week.

I had gotten the taste for foods I hadn’t had en masse for over a year and saw that I could eat it and not gain weight back as quickly as I lost it. When I got back, I kept some of the pre-cruise habits but I introduced some pizza, burgers, and desserts back. I introduced a little more than a splurge.

I knew how to lose weight and I knew I could lose weight, so why not have a few extra things?

Before I knew it, I’d jumped from my 147 elope/cruise weight back up to 157 in about 9 months. I felt bloated and awful. Many days, it felt like I’d gained back the whole 50 and then some even though it was only a fraction of that. A part of weight loss that is hard, at least for me, was knowing how it felt to be obese and then realizing that being bloated triggers that exact same feeling, even if you’re 50 pounds lighter.

The most frustrating part was that I knew how to do what I needed to do to lose the extra I’d gained back but I just wasn’t doing it. I continued to let myself slide because I’d made it to my goal, even though that goal was slowly inching further away.

The truth is that I’m still not back down to 150 pounds, even though I am earnestly working on it again (for real). I’m close so I’ll still consider myself to be on the right path, but it’s important to know that if the non-obese life is something that you want, the work doesn’t stop when you stop being obese.

This next bit that I’m going to say is entirely cliche but it’s also realistic. The work begins when the weight loss ends.

When the goal is reached, a new baseline needs to be established within eating habits. I couldn’t eat like fat Amanda anymore. I didn’t need to eat like weight loss Amanda anymore. I hadn’t learned any other way to eat so piecing that together wasn’t very easy. I ended up with a hybrid between the two for a while which consisted of counting calories and doing well some days but other day just ignoring it altogether and eating my feelings.

I think you probably know how that went some weeks.

I’m finally getting to the point that I’m learning to eat like healthier Amanda and it’s such a different mentality. I don’t have to run screaming from bread like weight loss Amanda learned to do. I don’t need to be either at the calorie limit or miles above it during my hybrid diet days. If I go over a bit, it’s okay. I don’t beat myself up. I move on and do better tomorrow.

One of the things that made it hard for me during the past year was the celebration of losing the weight. In order to keep going on the right food path, what I really need to do is ignore this 50 pounds and just push forward. Sure, I accomplished something, but celebrating it doesn’t help me maintain and it definitely doesn’t help me get in better shape.

Day in and day out, I still struggle. I have great days and I have miserable days. It honestly makes me wish that there was something like Alcoholics Anonymous for weight loss. I guess the closest thing would be Weight Watchers, but that’s a business–it’s not a support group. It would help to know that there are other former fat people struggling in this same way.

I’d like to end this on some sort of happy note but I’m not sure that makes sense. After all, celebrating my weight loss has brought me to a point of gaining a bit of it back. Let’s not celebrate today. Let me just wrap this up with honesty and hope. Here goes nothing.

I think I will struggle with food and weight and feeling fit for many years to come, quite possibly my whole life. That’s the honest part. I also think that if I keep working at this and refining my methods, mentality, and goals, I will get better at dealing with this struggle. Practice makes perfect, right?