It Seems Like There Should At Least Be Confetti May 11, 2015Posted by J. in Genius.
Tags: angst, anxiety, diet, epiphany, fit, goal weight, health, healthy, maintenance, plateau, process, progress, stabilization, weight loss
I suppose a lack of fanfare is to be expected when one moves the finish line a couple of miles before the end of the race. Or decides that there’s really no finish line at all and to just stop running altogether.
Wait. That’s confusing. Let me start again.
I decided yesterday–somewhat tentatively, mind you–that I’m done losing weight. I have, for all intents and purposes, reached my goal weight.
I say tentatively because every time I say it out loud, I feel like I’m cheating. I feel like I couldn’t get to my goal, so I just moved the goal. The last couple of miles were too hard, so I dropped out and declared myself the winner. I cannot achieve Thin, and have decided to settle instead for less Less Fat. It doesn’t feel like a victory to declare that 180 pounds is the best I can do; it is way more like a crushing defeat to me.
The truth of the matter is that I’ve been hovering within 5 pounds of 180 for more than 6 months now. I have dieted and exercised like an insane person, counting every bite of food that went into my mouth and only managed to get down to 177 pounds. But I’ve had weeks where I’ve not written down one thing, not counted one calorie, eaten more than a few “naughty foods” that I shouldn’t have, and only gone up to 186. And all I have to do to slip back down to 180 is have a couple of good days of smaller portions and better food choices.
The bottom line is that maintaining this weight isn’t that hard. My body seems to like it here. And the longer it goes on, the less it feels like a plateau and more like true stabilization.
What’s been eating at me is the fact that my body has stabilized about 40 pounds shy of the end goal. So I reevaluated my goal and said there’s nothing wrong with being 155 pounds instead of 140. If I could get to there, I would no longer be labeled as overweight. As it is, at 180 pounds, I’m still labeled as obese.
I DON’T WANT TO BE OBESE ANYMORE. I DON’T WANT TO BE OVERWEIGHT. I WANT TO BE NORMAL.
But the fact remains that my body has ideas of its own, and I have come to realize that it had those plans all along. It’s all well and good for me to pick a weight or pick a dress size, or get a mental image of what I’m going to look like, but when I was 360 pounds, I had no idea what was going to happen to my body as I lost weight. I didn’t know, and couldn’t know, what I was going to encounter along the way. It stands to reason that I should give myself permission to make adaptations to my expectations, as the reality unfolds.
I’ve had to reevaluate the labels that I put on myself, and that others put on me, and consider how realistic they actually are. For starters, I still think of myself as fat. Referring to myself as anything else seems like a weird lie. Even when I’m dressed and looking in the mirror for lumps and rolls and flab and not finding any, I’m not believing that they’re just not there. When I put on a size 12 dress and it fits, I assume it’s vanity sizing, or perhaps it’s just been mislabeled. Maybe it’s just the way it’s cut or a forgiving fabric or something.
I have had to convince myself that I am actually a size 12. It still seems weird to me. It doesn’t seem possible. And yet I have the tags to prove it. And here’s the thing: when I was 300 pounds, I remember saying more than once that I’d cut a bitch just to be a size 12.
And here I am, and I have no idea what to do with it.
I was saying as much to my mother at dinner last night. She said that she hoped I wasn’t trying to lose a whole lot more weight, because she felt I am on the verge of looking too thin. Particularly from the waist up and in my face. Granted, I still have an ample ass and thunder thighs, but she said I could thank Grammie Aline for those. My sister and I have long resigned ourselves to the fact that we could weigh 100 pounds and still have a fat ass. It is what it is, man.
I said I wanted to be a size 8 and that there is really no reason for me not to be a size 8. It’s not an unrealistic size.
She asked me why I wanted to be a size 8. “You can’t be much more than a 12 now.”
She looks at me and sees a size 12, tops. I look in the mirror and see a size 16 or an 18. Someone a whisper away from having to shop in the fat section of stores again. But I confirmed that yeah, I’m a size 12 or so.
“Well, what’s wrong with that?”
…Um…I don’t know…?
I’m still not sure I have an answer for that. Maybe because I still feel too big. I fear my mind has not caught up with my body. The progress has outpaced the process, as it were. I have been a fat girl for so long that my head can’t seem to see anything but a fat girl. It won’t acknowledge anything but a fat girl.
Sitting there at the bar, a little voice in my head said, “You know, that has to stop.”
Mind you, the little voice had been drinking bloody Mary’s, so I took the advice with a grain of salt, as one does when one’s inner voice is in its cups.
There is nothing wrong with being a size 12. It was a size I chose randomly as being a nice, smallish size, but not too small. Not eat-a-sandwich-for-the-love-of-Christ small. I’m not sure why at some point I decided that smaller was better. I suspect because at size 12, I still see a fat girl, but I’m thinking that there’s no way I’d consider a size 8 fat.
I can’t even say with any certainty that would be the case.
I suspect a lot of it has to do with those damned labels. I am still obese; ergo, I am still a fat girl. So it stands to reason that I must not be a nice, normal size 12, but I must be fatter than that. If I could maybe get to 170 and just be overweight? Damn it, why can’t I just get to 155?
This makes me pout. I occasionally stomp my feet and shake my fists towards heaven.
I know that logically, part of the reason I’m still overweight and will be for the foreseeable future is that I have a bunch more skin that the average body. Like, a whole bunch more. The people who came up with the weight charts used a normal body as a baseline. Two arms, two legs, a head, regular sized organs, average muscle tone, and the necessary amount of skin.
Bodybuilders don’t fret about being overweight in the least. The charts don’t allow for a metric fuckton of solid muscle. Doesn’t make them unhealthy. Doesn’t make them fat.
The charts don’t allow for what could be anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds of extra skin, either.
But when I remove math from the picture, and think in terms of intangibles, it becomes easier. Consider: if I lost both my legs in an accident tomorrow, I’d lose a shitload of weight right there. Would I then be dangerously underweight? Well, of course not. The charts would no longer apply to me.
Is it possible, then, that I set goals for myself at 360 pounds that have proven to be unrealistic?
I didn’t know 180 pounds ago what body was under here. What I pictured and what emerged didn’t reconcile, and embracing what has come out has been a huge struggle. And it’s a struggle fueled by the idea that I’m just not there yet.
But what if I am there? What if there is now here?
What if I crossed the finish line 6 months ago and didn’t even know it? And what if it’s because I fell into the mental trap of thinking there was actually a finish line, when there are merely new stages of development and progress emerging and unfolding all the time? What if I kept fighting and struggling towards goals that were unattainable because I was unable to see that they were unrealistic?
I am declaring to myself and anyone who cares to listen that there doesn’t need to be any end point, or goal weight to be achieved. For now, 180 pounds is fine. The extra weight I carry isn’t fat, and it isn’t causing me any health issues. I am healthy by all measurable standards. Even my size 12 “not-too-skinny-but-just-right” size is affected by the surplus of skin. And if and when the day comes I can bid that skin farewell, I’m going to drop a few more sizes and a few more pounds. And what is realistic will change again.
And since I am now under the thumb of my own declaration of independence from labels and charts, I’m working on coming to terms with the fact that changing my goals and expectations of myself based on new information is not quitting. The part of me that has learned to be goal-oriented and driven to see results and refuses to say “can’t” is going to have to adjust to focusing on things that are harder to quantify. I’ve never had to maintain weight loss before and I’m in uncharted waters again.
I feel I have quite a bit of work ahead of me before I’ll be ready for any skin surgery. Part of me feels that even if a big, fat bag of money was to drop into my lap right now, surgery would not only fail to resolve my body image issues, but might make it worse. If I can’t see now that I’m not a big as I think, I could wind up in dangerous territory in a smaller body. Ultimately, I’d like to get to the point where I am able to reconcile what I see with my eyes with what my brain perceives, so that when I have the surgery, it’s more of a finishing touch and less of a hurriedly applied bandage.
And I want some time to work on new ways of dealing with food. I haven’t touched my food journal in over two weeks, and my weight has stayed put. I know what healthy portions look like, and I know good food from bad. Much like slacking up on the reins when it comes to pounds and inches, loosening my grip on the calories has caused my brain to think more in terms of intangibles as well. A good day is one where I’ve practiced good eating habits and made good choices. It’s a good day if I go out to eat, enjoy my meal, and don’t make myself a nervous wreck thinking that I blew the whole week because I ate too much, or ate the wrong thing. It’s a good day when I run 4 miles because I felt like it, and not because it burns a lot of calories and pleaseohplease let that show up as a loss on the scale.
I know I couldn’t have lost the weight being this relaxed about the process. At the same time, I don’t think I could be as relaxed about it now if I hadn’t worked so hard on mastering the process all along. I may have achieved my weight loss goal some months back, but it’s only now that I’m ready to accept myself as I am now, and let this phase of things unfold as it will.
I always thought of a goal as the end, but now that I’m here, if feels much more like a beginning. I had to make new habits and establish new thought pathways to come this far, and it’s time to do that all over again. Honestly, I have no more idea what I’m doing now than I did two and a half years ago.
But I reckon I’ll figure it out.
The Nuts and Bolts, I Guess November 19, 2013Posted by J. in FYI, Genius.
Tags: change, diet, discipline, exercise, food diary, healthy, journal, lifestyle change, planning, weight loss
1 comment so far
Remember when I said last time that I didn’t want to discuss the nuts and bolts because it didn’t seem important? Welp, I guess it kind of is important after all. Who knew? The only thing I can tell you about a lot of this that I know for sure is that this is what works for me, as far as dieting and exercise goes. No one knows my body better than me, and no one knows your body better than you. If I know you well enough, I can make suggestions based on what I know of you and what results you’ve had so far, but I’m not a doctor, or a nutritionist, or a dietician, or a trainer, or qualified at all in any way. I read a lot about nutrition and I follow my doctor’s suggestions, but other than that, I’ve been feeling my way along and going on personal experience.
In response to my post about excuses, my friend Jessica asked, “What if the excuse “I forget” isn’t really an excuse, but because I actually legit forget? I hardly eat during the day, because I run around chasing the kids, and I make them food, but always forget to make something for myself. I have tried a million of those food logs on my phone, but I forget to do those as well. Is there something you did to help yourself remember easier? Is writing it down VS phone logging easier? Different? What exactly did you write down? Okay, so that was a lot of questions, sorry.”
Don’t be sorry; they’re good questions! I’m glad the shit I write spawns questions, actually. The difference between “I forget” being an excuse or a reason is how true it is. If you say, “Oh, I didn’t journal that piece of cake because I forgot,” but you did remember, you just postponed writing it down so that it did kind of slip your mind, that’s not really true. If you are supposed to send a picture of your journal to your sponsor and you are ashamed of how bad it looks so you say you forgot, that’s not true. Those are excuses. If you are forgetful, that’s another issue altogether. That’s an obstacle, and how you get past it is what determines success or failure.
Journaling my food is a habit I’ve cultivated. I have a small notebook I keep on my desk…
…that cost me all of two-fiddy at Joanns. It’s convenient for me in that spot since this is where I work, so I’m always returning here eventually. I also occasionally track my calories on My Fitness Pal just for funsies. I’m not a computer-y, gadgety, app-tastic sort of person to begin with, so using that all the time isn’t the best for me. Plus, with journaling by hand, I have to sit down and write. When I’m struggling with overeating, I write before I eat. A lot of times just seeing it written out will make me tweak my menu and strip some points out of it, or keep me from eating some crap I know I shouldn’t. Even if I write after I eat, it slows me down. If I’ve bolted down a meal, sitting and writing brings me back into mindfulness of that. It makes my brain register that yes, I have consumed a full meal, and to not try to tell myself otherwise just because I ate it so fast I barely remember it.
At the end of the day, my food journal is a tool that I use to track what I eat so that I don’t overeat, which I do when I eat mindlessly. This keeps me mindful. As for how I do it…I just write down what I ate and its points values. (I use the old system because I’m too cheap and lazy to learn the new way. That’s why my points values may look wonky if you’re using the most current WW incarnation. Old tools.)
To me, however, there was more to Jessica’s question than meets the eye, and I realize this puts her on the spot, but I think her question is a really good example of the kind of lifestyle changes that the dieting experts are always talking about. Jessica knows she needs to keep a food diary and that’s the lifestyle change she wants to make. But I think the real question is not “how can I remember?” but more “How can I change my lifestyle so that my needs become important?” She talks about being so busy running kids around and feeding them that she doesn’t find time to eat, or journal, or I’m guessing finding much time to do anything for herself. She’s less important than everyone else. “I forget” is a symptom of something bigger in this case.
So if I was put on the spot to hand out free, non-professional advice, the first lifestyle change I’d make is prioritizing “me time”. And that means meals. And it probably means rearranging the way you do things so that you can carve out that time. Feeding yourself should be, I argue, as important as feeding them. Make yourself a priority. Don’t lose yourself in them. You matter as much as they do, and deserve at least equal time. If that’s not happening, your schedule, your routine, your whole way of thinking about what role you have in their lives may have to change. I’d suggest making yourself something to eat when the rest of the family eats and have a family meal together, and then either before or after you eat, writing it down in some way. If you’re more app-driven, punch it up on your phone. Or set a reminder on your phone that sounds at the same time every day or some shit. If you need to slow down or you’re just kickin’ it old skool like me, get a cheapass journal and write that shit down.
I think complicated situations like this is why making excuses is SO much more tempting and attractive than looking deeper into what’s really going on. When you realize that making this small change might mean making major changes…well, fuck that noise. Now it’s too big. Now it’s REALLY too hard. Jesus. Changing your whole schedule and way of doing things, messing with family routines that are firmly ingrained? That’s a fucking HUGE challenge.
Now, here comes the “but.”
“I can’t change that” is different from “I don’t want to change that.” Trust me, it’s been a constant uphill battle for me, too. But hearing myself say “I don’t want to” a lot of the time will make me do it anyway. I don’t like how it sounds. “I don’t want to” puts the power back in your hands, where “I can’t” gives that power away. It’s crucial to know the difference.
I’ve come to understand that when the real experts talk about “lifestyle changes” they don’t mean just changing what you eat or taking a walk. That’s not enough. You have to create a life that makes good health possible. You have to stop doing the things that lead to unhealthy behaviors. And that is what is so FUCKING HARD. Jessica’s obstacles aren’t mine…I have my own well-documented struggles, and major (and a lot of minor) changes that I’ve had to make to my life. We don’t live the same life, so our paths will be different, but the need to really look deeply inside what holds us back and stands in our way is the same across the board for everyone who struggles.
As for the how I’ve lost the weight, the nuts and bolts are pretty simple.
I eat controlled amounts of good food. Lots of produce and lean protein, good fats, complex carbs, and I avoid processed foods, refined sugars, and simple carbs. And I keep careful track of it.
I work out six days a week. I give myself one day off to rest, but it’s not for my body, but rather for the part of me that gets tired of figuring out when I’m going to go and is sick of living in running tights. I do a little cardio, some resistance training, and a fuckton of crunches. I don’t go crazy. My workouts are usually around 45 minutes to an hour, I guess.
I drink about 9 cups of water a day, after my morning coffee is done. I don’t like it, but it flushes toxins and keeps me hydrated.
Other than that, I don’t know what else to tell you about what I do. Like I said in other blog posts, the most work I do is the mental work that lets the physical, tangible changes happen. It’s taken a year so far to sort stuff out, and it’s an ongoing process. It’s being honest with myself about what gets in my way and keeps me from where I want to be, sorting the lies I tell myself from the truth. When you get to the truth of what’s standing in your way, that’s when you can change those things. It smooths the way for the diet and the exercise to happen.
You know that saying, “Inside every fat person is a thin person trying to get out”? And the joking response, “Yeah, that’s because I ate her”? It’s not far from the truth. I think there really is a thin person inside me trying to get out of this fat suit. And I know at least in my case that I’ve always wanted my body to change without having to change who I am fundamentally, and I see now that it was never going to happen that way. And it never did. I can’t keep being the Old Me and turn into some fantastic new thin, fit, healthy person as if by magic. I can’t wish myself thin and keep eating the way I used to. Scratch that. I can’t wish myself thin and keep LIVING the way I used to. It does take work. It does mean making some big changes. And it does mean having to look inside yourself and get to understand why you do things the way you do. When you understand that, and you embrace the idea that the changes have to happen, things will change.
IT’S FUCKING RIDICULOUSLY HARD SOME DAYS. STILL. But not every day. It does get easier and more natural for pretty long stretches. And I think–no, I believe–that EVERY SINGLE FAT PERSON (no matter if it’s 20 pesky pounds or a demoralizing 200 like me) has the same capability that I do. When you stop saying “I can’t” and making excuses for why you act the way you do, that’s when you’ll find the something that works. But it won’t be a magic diet, it’ll be your own ability that makes it work. There’s no secret formula they can put into a pill that will get you up off the couch and out for what is the first of many walks around the block. That comes from inside you, where the thin person is biding his or her time.
The nuts and bolts will get you there. The mechanics of dieting are important, more to some than others. Shop around a bit. Try stuff out. See how your body responds. Pay attention to it. But all along the way, getting your head in a place where you can actually change your life right to the core is the foundation for making those changes work in a way that will render them permanent.
I kind of wish I had an easier answer. Actually, if we’re being honest, I wish the whole thing was easier. I swear to Jesus if they ever come up with a pill that makes you stop being fat, I’m on that like fucking white on rice, man.
Until then, I guess I’ll just keep trying to be a better me. It’s all I got.