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?

The Start of my Food Revolution

My stomach has been pretty mad lately. It’s been rumbling and swelling with every meal that I’ve ingested. I’m blaming my bout of salmonella food poisoning last summer for the sudden changes in my digestive tolerance. The research that I’ve read on the digestive system after a significant illness indicates that prolonged stomach sensitivity  is quite common.

While that is possibly comforting psychologically, it doesn’t quite help the fact that I’ve been bloated and uncomfortable and unsure of exactly what I was eating that my stomach could no longer tolerate.

The digestive problems combined with my growing waistline led me to seek some food guidance. Luckily, one of my yoga instructors, Abby Thompson, also doubles as a healthy eating coach so I joined on with her to fix my eating and weed out what is causing my discomfort so I can eat smarter going forward. She provided some guidelines and many recipes to get me started.

I started a mere five days ago on this journey of eliminating dairy, refined sugars, gluten, caffeine, and alcohol.

(Yeah. That’s a lot to eliminate all at once. I know. But I needed something drastic and this was it.)

Five days ago, I weighed 166 pounds and felt bloated and lethargic. But today, I’m at 162 pounds and feeling much happier. My bloat has practically run away screaming from all of the veggies I’ve been eating and my stomach, if it could, would be smiling at me and sending thank you notes.

There was a very difficult hump to get over during the end of Tuesday and all of Wednesday. I’m guessing that it was my withdrawal from refined sugars and included very intense cravings for sugar and bread right along with a headache that just wouldn’t go away.

But with sleep, more veggies, and an amazing chocolate pudding made from coconut milk, dates, cocoa powder, and vanilla, I got over the hump on Thursday and woke up feeling like the me that I remember before my stomach started hating what I was putting into it.

I’m not nearly done yet, since this is a four week journey and I haven’t quite finished week one yet, but I’m excited about the things to come and what I’ll learn about my body. I hope that the improvements I’ve seen and felt in these first five days continue to grow and build to lay the foundation for a healthier lifestyle.

The Hardest Thing

Once upon a time, I was fat. It was 2010 when I hit my highest weight of 200 pounds. For a woman measuring only 5’4″, that put me into the obese range.

~

Once upon a time, I lost a lot of weight. At my lowest since 2010, I weighed in at a very healthy 147 pounds. Come to think of it, I was around that weight in March of 2012 when my husband and I eloped.

~

I’d always thought that losing the weight would be the hardest thing I’d ever done, but that was until I did it. It was hard to start, no question, but when I was in it, it became easy. Like butter. The weight came off a pound or two a week–the healthy way. Steady. I loaded up on veggies and took up running and it was actually fun. I splurged on glasses of wine or sweet treats here and there but I kept doing it because it worked.

And it felt easy once the ball was rolling, like how a slinky just walks down the stairs on its own after you get it started.

I can tell you, that was not the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

That prize goes to the two years I’ve lived since being able to celebrate a 50 pound weight loss. When I was getting to my highest weight (which was happening in college and after graduation), I felt helpless to stop the incessant nudge of the scale upwards and I never thought that I’d feel that way again when I started seeing the scale go down.

In 2012, after I achieved 147 pounds, I held there for a little while, and fluctuated, but never more than five pounds up. I had gained a confidence through weight loss and through visiting a counselor that I don’t think I’d ever had before and I was able to keep moving ahead without much of a slip up.

The scale began to nudge up, if I’m honest, after my break-up with my counselor. She was no longer covered under my insurance and I couldn’t afford to see her anymore. This wasn’t a happy departing on my end and I languished over it, and still do sometimes, because she was wonderful. I was very reluctant to leave the security of her office because in some way, I was also leaving part of me, the stronger woman she helped me to become.

The valuable lessons she taught me about caring for myself in meaningful way slipped. I had relied on her as an outlet for my thoughts and emotions but that was removed. Tough emotions usually make us turn to the things we know and for me, that was food.

The scale was slow to move up, and I would see it and move it back down. This happened a few times in rather small increments. Up five. Back down three. Up three. Back down two. But the ups were always just a little bit bigger than the downs.

And this winter, when I stopped running due to the weather, the downs stopped altogether. And I’m up to a weight that I last saw on my decent in 2011, just about exactly three years ago.

166.

This may not seem horrible but it feels like an important dividing line.

If I’m less than 166, I can fit rather comfortably into a size 10 with no frets. But now I’m truly a size 12 and that’s a problem because I no longer own anything in size 12. I got rid of all my too-big sizes three years ago when I was losing and I vowed not to go back up. I refused to buy a size bigger than a 10.

And now I’m at a crossroads: lose weight or buy a bigger size.

I need to get over this emotional hump and find a place where I’m happy being me again. I need to find a way to feel comfortable in my body again. And I need to fall in love with salads and running again.

If only this wasn’t the hardest thing to do.

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?

The Prime of My Life

I’ve heard that high school is the prime of my life. I’ve also heard that it was my college years. Even further still, it’s the time between getting married and having children when it’s just a family of two. Depending on any one person’s personal experience in life, you’re likely to hear different things and the global consensus usually is that it’s behind you and your life is all downhill from where you are now.

I refuse to subscribe to this.

If high school was supposed to be the prime of my life, that was a magnificent failure. I had so much anger while growing into an adult that I have a difficult time thinking of positive things during that time frame. All of the positives then are short snippets. Sure, much of this has to do with my own perspective, but it’s still worthy. I had no belief that it was the prime of my life and I still don’t think that it was even close.

College is a bit of a different matter. I formed a lot of myself then and met my husband there so I can’t count out the experience. I’m not really even looking to count out my high school experience, either, but there’s a vast difference between counting it and considering it the prime of my life. I don’t think college was my prime. I think I grew a lot then but I wasn’t in a space where I could think that things were amazing all around.

What plagued me then was always thinking about the future. I was thinking about what’s next rather than right now and naturally that lends itself to not living fully in the moment. Not living in the moment completely removes one’s self from life at the very time that it’s happening.

Inherently, this can not be the prime of my life.

Marriage is still fresh and new and there’s a certain perspective that time can give to these things. I can’t really say that it is the prime of my life only due to marriage and I don’t want to say that it would end if I had children.

I’ve finally got it, though. I have a plan and it’s marvelous (or at the very least, it seems to be marvelous now and in the moment).

I am in the prime of my life. And I will continue to be in the prime of my life every year going forward.

Let’s take a step back for a minute to explore this. In 2010 I was obese and unhappy with how I felt about myself. I’d surely say that it wasn’t the prime of my life yet. I then embarked on my 50 pound weight loss journey. It was profound and transformative, but even then, I wasn’t in the prime of my life.

But now, in 2012, I surely am. It wasn’t only the age and it wasn’t only the weight loss. It wasn’t the 5k that I ran or getting married. It was everything. It was learning to live for today and to be happy today. Happiness stopped being a future goal and it became a now goal. I worked on August Happiness, a project dedicated to learning how to be happy despite any other circumstances. And it worked.

I learned that if I had the right mindset, I could be happy even by doing the smallest things. It might be wearing a cute outfit. It might be giving someone a compliment. It might just be listening to an audiobook on my way to work or singing my guts out to a song. It was hard. I’d never thought that finding happiness would be so hard. It was some days, especially after a long day or if I hadn’t slept.

But I found happiness within myself and I learned that I can make myself better among the worst seeming circumstances.

It has brought me into my prime both mentally and physically. I’m more focused when I run and I’m more focused in my life. I’ve achieved so much of what I wanted to as an individual that it’s completely amazing to me.

So my goal is to keep getting better and to keep paying attention to myself. In theory, I will keep improving on the prime of my life and make it last for months, years, decades, a lifetime.

The prime of my life is now because I’ve decided that it is. When is the prime of your life going to be?

Commenting on Weight

I made my weight loss rather public last year for a few reasons. The first was for my own accountability. If people were watching what I did, there would be some level of shame in either screwing up or not reaching the finish line. I think that part helped me to keep the ball rolling, especially at the beginning. The further I got into it, I don’t think I needed accountability as much but I still used it because now people were curious and paying attention. The second reason I talked about it was because I hoped that people would see, though my own success, that you really can do it if you work hard. You can go from obese to a healthy weight. It’s possible.

I have put myself into a position where people comment on my weight. A lot. In a good way. They ask how much I’ve lost and how I did it. I answer them (50 pounds and by learning about nutrition, respectively). I know that I put myself out there and let people see this process. I showed the difficult days and the knee injury. I showed my weekly weigh ins. I was out there. People were happy for me and they wanted to share that with me and it’s a rewarding reminder of where I’ve come. But the important thing is that I made a choice to share.

A couple months ago, though, a comment made me think. I overheard someone (male, I think this matters) mention that a woman had put on a few pounds. Not some imaginary woman but a woman in that room and only just out of earshot. I felt disgusted for her. If I had known the perpetrator more, I would have told him how rough it was to hear that, even if about another person. I thought about what people say to me and how they would never have said “Wow, you’ve put on so much weight! How many pounds has it been?” even though they will tell me “Wow, you’ve lost so much weight! How many pounds has it been?”

It made me think that when I did gain weight, people probably talked about it and how they were worried or wondered if I was okay. Maybe they even joked at my expense and maybe it’s hopeful of me to think that their comments were concern rather than something worse. He could easily have been talking about me a few years ago. But now that I’ve turned the tables they’re able to comment in a positive way and say it to me rather than to other people when I’m not there.

It has made me feel a little bit more weary about the comments I’ve been getting and I know that it’s wrong on some level to feel that because the people commenting positively really do mean it in the best possible way. They are genuinely impressed (or that’s what I’m told). But there’s just something about it that feels wrong because they would never have told me anything when I was in the process of gaining.

So there is a point where it feels strange to receive these comments. At least for me. And also for a friend of mine, except her situation is not like mine. She was not overweight and she isn’t now. The situation that she told me about that struck me was on the other end of the spectrum but very awkward and inappropriate all the same.

She is thin, but not dangerously so, and was commenting on how cold she was in the air conditioning when another person (male, I’m not sure if it matters) told her that if she ate more and wasn’t so thin, then maybe she wouldn’t be cold.

This bothered her because she eats plenty–she’s just naturally thin and okay with her own self. But why do some feel is acceptable to comment on her weight, even thought she is well within healthy limits?

I accept a level of commenting because I talk very openly about my own weight but her? She’s not. She’s just naturally thin and that is not a problem for her. I’ve never even heard her bring up her weight. So why is there negativity? Why is she made to feel as though her weight is unacceptable, even though she’s healthy? And even if she did put on some weight, I have a feeling that these same types would also comment (but maybe not so openly to her) that maybe she was getting a little chubby.

Here’s the point I’m driving at: if people aren’t talking about their weight and they are not harming themselves, then you probably shouldn’t talk about their weight either. It’s none of your business.

I talk openly about my weight loss because it’s important for me to stay honest with myself and for others, even just one person, to see what I’ve done and know it’s possible. But I still didn’t do this for anyone. I didn’t do it in preparation for a wedding. I didn’t do it because I was worried what others thought of me. I didn’t do it for you, or for my family, or for my husband. I did it because I felt like crap and I needed to change.

I welcome people to talk to me about it, ask questions, and figure out how they can achieve their goals. But others have to know that not everyone is me and not everyone welcomes comments on their weight.

So just, you know, don’t.

Weight and the Weather

Boston is currently experiencing its first dose of real summer so far this year. It was in the 90s (Fahrenheit) yesterday and will be much the same today. What I’m noticing is interesting and I felt a bit of it last year as well but not quite to this extent.

I’m not as miserable as I used to be in the summer. What I mean is that the heat doesn’t feel as hot. I don’t feel like I can’t stand to be outside. It actually felt kind of nice sitting outside on my lunch break yesterday (albeit not in direct sunlight).

I’m coming to the conclusion that the weight loss not only affected my appearance and dress size but it also affects how I feel in different weather. Like now, I’m actually enjoying summer. I’m enjoying warm weather. I thought I hated summer? What’s going on?!

A nice day in the park.

I’m so mixed up, you guys. The weight I carried both made me uncomfortable in a bathing suit and made me warmer than I am now. It’s probably similar to how seals and whales carry blubber to keep themselves warm under water. I was carrying fat that insulated me in the winter but then made me very hot in the summer. It makes sense, I know, but it’s something that I didn’t expect. It’s a pleasant side effect.

It helps me remember how far I’ve come. I’m feeling so much better in so many different ways.

Happy Summer!

Striving Towards Fitness

In 2011, I lost 50 pounds. It took commitment and hard work. I had set a goal and I ended up achieving it. It was an incredible time.

Now, though, I find myself losing ground. The scale no longer delivers powerful numbers that I haven’t seen in years. I’m not shrinking out of my clothes on a constant basis. I’m not changing in a way that makes me feel like I can conquer Everest. Hell, I’m not sure I could even conquer Mt. Monadnock right now (…fancy a little regional humor?).

The weight loss journey, I’m learning, was about having a goal and working towards it. It was about making changes and seeing their effects. It was having the control over my life enough to change how I treat myself. It was a constant stream of victories. No matter what else was going on, I still had my scale and the ever smaller number it read. And it wasn’t chance or luck or a winning lottery ticket found on the sidewalk. It was a plan. It was actions, thoughtfully carried out over the course of a year, that helped me towards the ever present goal that seemed so many miles away when I started.

And then there’s this. Feeling like I’ve stopped. Feeling like I’m losing ground with every passing day. Feeling like there’s nothing left. Feeling like I gave all I could to my prior pursuit but there isn’t enough power to get over the next hump. In actuality, this is familiar territory. I went through this before I could commit to changing my diet. I had the tools but no follow through and fear of failure. But familiar or not, it’s still a very uncomfortable place to be.

I’ve started and stopped many fitness programs over the years. For me, fitness is the least consistent part of my weight loss story to date. It’s the most difficult. Changing the food I eat is easy. I plan better and I succeed more often because I know what I should and shouldn’t do. But fitness is still yet to be achieved in any successful manner.

I’m partially afraid of failure since that’s all I’ve had lately with my fitness trials. I’m also just trying to make sure that I have enough will and strength mentally to commit to this and really make sure that I don’t quit.

With a new month fast approaching, it is an opportunity to start fresh. I’ve had many of these months before but with any luck, this might be the time that it sticks. So I will eat well, work out often, and stop weighing myself. That’s what I pledge this May. With determination and will, I will come out a more fit person in June and will have renewed confidence to keep pushing further.