Monday, October 12, 2015

In search of

You might have noticed it's been a while since I last posted. (Ot not.) In the 42 days since my last post, I have regained another 13 pounds, putting me 33 pounds above the lowest weight I achieved (145) in June 2014. My body fat is just over 32% which actually isn't much above the top of the recommended range for my age but it's 6% above where I was 16 months ago. I keep trying to find the magic answer to the question "what will it take to get me back where I was?" but it seems to elude me.
  • I consulted another dietician who told me that my diet choices (when I'm not binge eating) look pretty healthy and don't need any changes but that I should try to eat closer to 1600 calories a day instead of the 1600-1800 I'd been targeting
  • I had a Dexa body scan, with Kay Lynn, and found that my resting metabolic rate is just above 1500 calories a day, meaning that with my consistent daily physical activity where it is, I should be eating about 1800 calories a day most days and as many as 2800 on super-active days
  • I signed up (and paid in advance for) a 10 week high intensity, slow resistance training class at work; I have not attended once because I got scared off by the orientation when the instructor pushed me to failure on each of the machines
  • I quit my Weight Watchers online membership because I didn't feel I was getting anything out of it
Given the results I have seen since my last post and the horrible, uncomfortable way I feel in my body - to say nothing of the humiliating way it feels not being able to fit into my undergarments, I decided to re-join Weight Watchers. I attended my first meeting today and, while I didn't love that particular class - wrong leader, wrong classmates - I did love the feeling of being back in my "losing routine". I'm tracking what I eat, adding resistance training and some additional cardio options on top of my daily 16,000 steps, and waiting to see what the scale says in a week.

Today is my 48th birthday and I'm not happy with the way I feel, but I'm more hopeful than I have been in a long time that I can turn this around and start making better choices. I have worked WAY too hard to let this get away from me now.

Monday, August 31, 2015

What if?

Sorry for the prolonged absence and lack of new writing here - I've been so busy beating myself up for not being perfect that I just haven't had the time to sit down and write.

I wish I were kidding about that; I'm not.

Fourteen months ago, I weighed 18 pounds less than I do and had 7% lower body fat. For the second half of 2014, I pretty easily maintained my weight within 10 pounds of my lowest point and my body fat was about 3% higher. All the while, I beat myself up for having gained that weight and fat, constantly sniping in my head about how weak I was and how I just needed to get it together.

Then, in a few weeks - literally, less than a month - earlier this year, I had some serious binge eating episodes, the likes of which I hadn't seen since I'd started eating carefully and exercising daily, and I put on another 15 pounds on top of the 10 I'd already gained; suddenly, I was 25 pounds heavier. The trigger for this self-destructive behavior was my contracting stomach flu just four days before the Tinkerbell Half Marathon, a race I'd been training for since before Christmas: all of my hard work had been for nothing and the gorgeous finisher medal I'd been dreaming of on every single one of my mostly miserable training runs evaporated into thin air.

The anger and frustration I felt after that loss of dietary control was sharp and fierce. Once I'd stopped the binge eating, I buckled down with only one purpose: to get back down to that lowest weight as quickly as possible. I cut out all foods containing flour (no baked goods), all starchy vegetables (no potatoes, no corn, no peas), and any food containing more than 20 grams of sugar (my favorite Greek yogurt). And I clung to that routine, faithfully and strictly, for weeks without wavering, only to find that I'd lost about a pound in all that time, with all of that sacrifice.

I consulted a nutritionist to find out what I was doing wrong that the weight wouldn't come off. She asked me a bunch of questions about how and what I ate, then told me that it sounded like I was doing the right things and that perhaps it was environmental toxins that were keeping me from dropping weight. So I changed my toothpaste, my laundry detergent, and my vitamins. Still the scale kept showing me weights and body fat percentages that decreased by a minuscule amount each week, if at all. To say that I was frustrated would be a massive understatement.

As someone who has been known to "treat" my depression by making poor food choices, I'll admit that I resorted to that behavior once or twice in the last few months, so I'm sure that's part of what's going on. It's also true that I lost a tremendous amount of weight less than two years ago, so it's possible my body is just confused about what the heck it's supposed to do at this point - I know I am.

I was marinating about all of this - perhaps obsessing about it would be more accurate - as TCB and I strolled around my favorite indoor shopping center this weekend. I was in the middle of beating myself up again about all of the gorgeous clothes in my closet that I can't wear because they're too small and the need for me to "get serious" about losing the weight again before it gets cold here because I won't allow myself to buy all new cold weather clothes, too (I made a substantial investment in new summer clothes because things I wore this time last year don't fit right now and I swore I wouldn't do it again) when the strangest thought hit me: what if you didn't lose any weight ever again? I sucked in my breath, unprepared for the way my whole body seemed to seize up at the thought. But I kept going.

What if:

  • I stopped focusing on the scale and only worried about my blood sugar?
  • I accepted my body for the strength and stamina it has, instead of obsessing about the fat in my upper abdomen?
  • I unclenched everything for a while, stopped trying to fit into unforgiving high fashion clothes and instead focused on being comfortable (not frumpy, just comfortable)?
  • I ate foods that make me feel good and are good for my blood sugar, in reasonable amounts, without worrying about the calories and macronutrient content?
  • I stopped apologizing to everyone around me for having regained some weight and instead just accepted their compliments about how I look and how my transformation has inspired them to take better care of themselves, too?
Could I do that and be OK? Can I change the habits of a lifetime and just allow myself to be OK as I am for a little while?

What if.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Setting goals: Where do I want to be?

I have had a lot of success in creating healthy habits in the past by setting SMART goals. For those not familiar with this concept, SMART stands for:

  • Specific - simply and clearly spell out what you'll do
  • Measurable - make it something that can be tangibly proven
  • Attainable - should be challenging but defined enough to be achievable
  • Relevant - choose goals that matter and are important to you
  • Time-bound - define a time frame for completion of the goal that creates some sense of urgency
For ages now, I've been floundering along without setting any proper goals. (My current obsession with "taking off this stupid 20 pounds that I regained" isn't cutting it because it's not time-bound nor is it attainable in a short period of time.) In an effort to set myself up for success, here are some goals I've created for myself:
  1. Lose 5 pounds and be under 30% body fat by Labor Day (six weeks from now). I have my annual with my general practitioner mid-September, so it would certainly be good to be back in the realm of merely Overweight before that get together.
  2. Lose another 5 pounds and be under 28% body fat by New Year's Day (22 weeks from now). This would put me squarely back into my cold weather clothes, none of which fit me at the moment. I bought all new summer clothing because I had no other option, but I'm drawing a line in the sand: back in my happy size by the time it gets cold here or else suffer the cold.
I'll do these things by attending (a minimum of) twice-weekly Pilates Reformer classes, abstaining from anything containing flour, and not eating anything before bed. My physical therapist is optimistic I'll be able to start running again on a regular basis by my birthday mid-October, so that would certainly help with the second goal, too.

I have been making a lot of healthy changes to my life in the last few weeks without seeing much change on the scale, so it's possible that will continue despite my best efforts. Adding back the Pilates Reformer classes that I stopped in March should help things move in a better direction both weight- and body fat-wise, and I have renewed hope for good outcomes.

Anyone else want to declare some SMART goals? Share in the comments or shoot me an email - knowing you're not alone can do wonders for staying the course.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Mental Health Monday: Make up your mind, for goodness' sake!

Welcome to another installment of Mental Health Monday!  This regular series of articles from writers across the blogosphere was born out of a session on Depression, Anxiety and Healthy Living from Fitbloggin’ 15.  Every 1st and 3rd Monday there will be a link up for writers to share their experiences with mental illness – either from their own experience or from the experience of helping and walking with others.  The goal is to reach out to the world and let people know that they are not alone in their struggles.  You are never alone.  Join us – link up, visit new blogs, support others.  Speak out:  “I am crazy…CRAZY AWESOME!”

My particular flavor of mental illness (a mild form of bipolar disorder) comes with many fun habits while I'm in a manic period, such as:

  • My mind flying along at a million miles per hour, which can lead to and enhance,
  • Difficulty concentrating on any one thing and a tendency to be more easily distracted than usual,
  • Extreme optimism (this is usually when I decide to sign up for a crazy athletic event or take up some other time consuming new hobby without talking it through with TCB).
Of course, what goes up must come down, and my depressive episodes are more extreme than my manic ones, so these symptoms are more pronounced as well. They include:
  • Wanting to cry for no good reason,
  • Withdrawing from friends and family because talking to anyone feels like too much work,
  • Trouble concentrating,
  • Irrational irritability (TCB is usually the worst victim of this gift).
As miserable as all of those are, it's the in between times that are the worst for me. The medical community refers to it as "cycling" between the two extremes and that's a pretty benign word for something that feels absolutely wretched. Again, my highs aren't very high but my lows can get very low so that's a long way to go when you're in free fall.

Wonder if the designer of this title sequence had Cyclothymia?
When I'm in the middle of cycling, I usually have the fleeting thought that I'd rather stay depressed than keep going back and forth; it's miserable. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days for me to realize what's going on and that I'm back on the swing again, during which time I used to yell at those around me for no good reason other than what I thought was just a "really crappy mood". 

These days I generally pick up on the signs fairly quickly and remind myself that it's not TCB or anyone else's fault that I feel this way so I need not to make others suffer for my pain. And, as with most of my symptoms, just realizing what's going on in my head usually brings quite a bit of relief on its own.

Other habits I've picked up along the way to help with the cycling blues:
  • Dial back on non-urgent and/or non-important commitments - if it can wait, let it wait,
  • Get outside on my regular walks and listen to something upbeat,
  • Go to bed a little earlier, if possible - nothing is worse than being in one of these moods AND being physically tired, too,
  • Be kind to myself, listen for clues about what my body needs to feel secure and safe while it's dealing with this - this isn't a character flaw, it's a mental illness and I don't need to be punished for something I can't control.
Understanding how to take care of myself has made a world of difference in the way that I approach daily life, so I can't recommend strongly enough having a "sick day" plan that details how you'll handle your day-to-day routines when a mental health challenge arises. Think it through now, while you're feeling strong and capable, and perhaps you won't suffer quite as much with the next episode.