Way back at the start of the year, I made a crazy 52-things-to-do-in-2015 list (some of which I’ve actually done/stuck to). First on the list was to lose weight. After a great January and February where I managed to lose almost 11 pounds, I started to slack off in March. By the end of May, I had put back on almost all the weight, which made me feel even worse than I did five months ago.
Here’s the thing: There’s a reason why the weight-loss industry exists; it’s almost impossible to lose weight and keep it off. I have never been a yo-yo dieter, but I have struggled with weight issues most of my adult life. This is in large part due to fortunate (?? – debatable) genetics that have allowed me to carry an extra 20 pounds that don’t “show.” Even at my current girth, I still have a waist. I get complacent and fall into bad habits and the same 10-15 pounds creeps back up until I decide to “diet” and lose that weight. It’s a cycle common to many people because permanent weight loss is the Holy Grail of “health.” Your weight may not indicate your overall health, but certainly as we age, the more overweight we are the harder it is for a body to do all the things we need it to do.
But besides all that… I just hate how I look. Now, this is nothing to do with attractiveness; to be honest, I’ve never had more attention from men my whole life. My low self-esteem aside, I have never been someone who focused on being attractive to others. The men I like tend to like me and the size of my ass doesn’t seem to be of primary concern in my relationships (or maybe it is, ha ha). The point is, when you cannot stand to look at yourself in the mirror, this is a bad thing. I know I need to change, but permanent change is very difficult.
I’ve had four periods of rather dramatic weight gain and have managed to lose weight exactly three times in my life (expressed in % of weight as opposed to pounds):
- I became well acquainted with the “freshman 10,” which was closer to a freshman 20. I kept the weight on while in college, but I joined a gym in the late-80s (I was 21) and began a weight-training program with a personal trainer. I was able to lose about 10% of my weight, pretty much all the weight I had put on at school. It’s important to remember that I was very young and it’s much easier to lose weight when you’re younger. I kept the weight off until I got pregnant with my first kid.
- Massive weight gain number one: Pregnancy. If you don’t want to get fat while pregnant, you really have to monitor your weight gain carefully. I tend to be a “nauseous eater,” so I was literally feeding my morning sickness. I had a ton of food aversions during this pregnancy, but I still managed to put on 55 pounds. This was the mid-90s, and I managed to lose nearly all the weight gained from my pregnancy within two years of giving birth (I don’t even count this as true “weight loss” because it was just a natural progression of giving birth, nursing and then quitting nursing when the rest of the weight kinda just melted away). My total weight loss was just over 25% of my body weight.
- Massive weight gain number two: Pregnancy in midlife. When I became pregnant with my second child (not unplanned but very much a surprise), I was much older and there were some minor complications early on. One side effect was that I felt like I was starving to death pretty much the first four months. I had been a vegetarian for 18 years and suddenly I was dreaming about meat. I knew I was older but I couldn’t believe how different this pregnancy was. I was light-headed, struggling with my blood sugar levels, and just felt generally ill. In the first half of my pregnancy when a “normal” weight gain would be about 10 pounds, I had put on 40. Well, of course, it turned out I was having a boy. I began re-introducing meat and I felt tons better. Even though my weight gain slowed as the baby grew inside me, I managed to pack on a whopping 65 pounds. Unfortunately, I didn’t lose the weight postpartum, weighing almost the same going out as I did going in (my 9-pound son not compensating for my milk coming in, apparently). By 2009, I was in a very negative place and decided that the only thing I could control was my own body (this was when my marriage of 18 years was ending). As a result, I lost 45 pounds (I used to joke that I actually lost 245 pounds… the 200 pounds being the weight of my husband!). This was only the second time I had managed to lose weight through diet and exercise.** I was in my early 40s, so this was quite an accomplishment and I kept most of the weight off for three years before the creep creep creep came back. Weight loss = 27% of my weight.
- My most recent weight gain was gradual but tenacious. After a bad break-up (yes, I know I’m a walking cliche), I fell into a bad bout of depression. Just when I was starting to get my feet back under me, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer (she’s okay, btw, but did suffer some side effects from the radiation). Shortly thereafter, there were substantive changes to my personal and financial situation (my ex and I had never finalized our divorce, but as he was moving to California, it became imperative we “sign on the dotted line”). I managed to put on 20 pounds in just under 18 months, putting me almost at what I weighed after the birth of my son. This is the weight I’m currently battling. I set out at the beginning of the year to lose 26.5% of my body weight; the 30-day-challenge would amount to a loss of approximately 15% of my body weight.
Please note the ** on #3 above. The truth is, I didn’t succeed in losing weight solely through diet and exercise as I was one of the very first people in America to catch Swine Flu. I was so sick I thought I was going to die. I had been trying to lose weight for a little over a month, and I had dropped about (drum roll and no surprises) 10 pounds over that time. While ill, I baked at 105 degrees for five days and lost close to 20 pounds in a week. Once I was well, I swore to myself I wouldn’t put that weight back on, and for about a month I really monitored what I was eating every day and kept to a very low-calorie diet. That weight stayed off and I lost an additional 15 pounds or so. As noted above, I kept that weight off for several years before the “creep” began again… but I cannot honestly claim that I would have succeeded in losing that weight had I not gotten sick.
At the beginning of 2015, I set out this year to lose weight in a healthy way, but I’m failing. And flailing. And I feel like crap. I just don’t do well on “slow and steady wins the race.” There are a whole host of reasons for this, but I think if I am to succeed, I need some kind of “Biggest Loser” intervention. Short of catching another deadly disease, I’ve decided to take an extreme measure and attempt to lose 30 pounds in 30 days. I suspect I won’t accomplish this, but I also know that constant on-going deprivation leaves me feeling, well, deprived. I also know that June is a pretty good month for getting out in NYC: The weather is not so gross as to preclude movement in the city that always reeks in July and August. And while I have doubts that I’ll succeed, I think this is maybe the only way I can possibly get back on track (and, in fact, the goal was to lose approximately 30 pounds by the end of June from my January 1st timeline).
It’s important I note the following:
- I am writing this beginning in May to be published if I succeed (SPOILER ALERT: I went ahead and published this shy of 30 days, although my definition of “succeeded” may not align with numbers on a scale); so the rest of this will go as a journal.
- This is a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do… I am fully aware that this kind of weight loss regime is not healthy; don’t try this at home! I will offer tips of what I am doing and how I am doing it, but please consult your own medical care provider before trying to lose weight.
- It’s important to note I am technically obese; while I think the BMI is the dumbest measurement ever, in my situation, it’s probably not wrong: Even if I account for being a rather “big boned” person, I would still come in at a BMI over 30. Thus, my desire to lose weight in an extreme fashion is less crazy than someone who is in better shape. Just as some morbidly obese people get their stomachs stapled, I think my goal’s benefits exceed the risks.
- This is not a low-calorie/starvation diet, and by “diet” I mean what I consume as opposed to some technique called “a diet.” While calorie control is a huge (no pun intended) issue in dieting and often far under-rated, I’m not doing a crazy cleanse. As I said to my sister, it’s less akin to skipping dinner and more along the lines of walking into an Italian restaurant, forgoing the bread basket, and ordering the fish instead of pasta. I’m tracking calories (all approximate) more to have a sense of just how much I am eating, especially when I start to feel hungry; if I see that I’ve eaten 1600 calories that day, I know that my hunger is a good thing as opposed to an “I really need to eat something” issue. I don’t have an over-all calorie goal because I do not believe that all calories are equal. Two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil will cost you more than some icky processed bar that claims to be “healthy.” I don’t believe that processed foods are good for anyone, regardless of “dieting”; if you have to read the label, you’re shopping wrong. Real food doesn’t come with a label.
My plan for the next 30 days, which I will track in a spreadsheet:
- Take a long walk every other day with 45 minutes of yoga in between, pending shitty weather.
- Drink 5 + liters of water per day.
- Limit dairy to the 4T of cream I take in every morning (I’m not giving up coffee).
- Eliminate gluten/grains.
- Eat clean (buy local/organic whenever possible).
- Consume plenty of veggies daily (probably limiting myself to monster salads for much of the month – a “monster salad” is a creation of a ginormous bowl of vegetables that includes two hard-boiled eggs and approximately 4 oz. of meat/protein; it takes me the better part of an hour to make and the better part of two hours to eat; more on food in the journal below).
- NO DRINKING!!!
So, here we go.
May 29th; weight: 205.2
I actually just go for a walk with no plan about losing weight. I used to walk a ton, but that was back when I had a walking buddy. It is so much harder to walk when you are alone. However, as often happens, my head clears and I begin to think about this 30-day challenge; the more I walk the more this makes sense to me. Sticking to the short game is bound to be easier than the long one. Plus, I know I’ll shed 10 pounds very quickly (it’s the same 10 pounds I’ve put on over the last couple of weeks). I devise a plan (see above) and go forth. I also have my lovely, skinny daughter (I joke she’s half the woman I am… LITERALLY!), take some horribly unflattering photos:
My plan is to take updated photos once/week because the scale is only one measurement. I will also use a tape measure to get more information on my body change. I know that at some point I will plateau, and I don’t want the lack of movement on the scale to be my only form of measurement.
Read here for the first 10 days
Finally catching up to what you are doing. I am in a very similar place (as you know from seeing me in Nov). I’m learning from you, and trying to put my “big girl pants on”, my very big girl pants, and DO SOMETHING.
Well, as much as I HATE ABSOLUTELY HATE putting those photos up, I think it’s a good incentive. I’ve known people who are profoundly overweight who say, “Oh, I haven’t been on a scale in years!” Of course, part of the problem is accepting that there’s a problem! There’s not a single answer how to address the challenge of becoming more fit (note I didn’t say, “weighing less” because not all of us have the same fitness goals), but now that my “icky” photo is up, I have to own that is my body and I don’t like it! Best of luck on your journey, but you deserve to be in a body you love and one that supports you through all the VERY IMPORTANT work you do!