[If you want to read about the 30-day challenge from the beginning, click here.]
Here I am, a few days out of my 30-day challenge. I wanted to sum up beyond the journal, because this was a very difficult and, ultimately, rewarding experience. While I fell short of my goal, which was to lose—in case the title wasn’t clear! ha!—30 pounds in 30 days. In the end, I managed half that (i.e. I lost 15+ pounds). I could get all “glass empty” and bemoan what I didn’t accomplish, but the truth is that I have been gaining and losing the same 10 pounds for so long that anything that gets me to a new “happy” weight, is a great thing. (A “happy” weight is that number on the scale that seems to indicate where your body wants to stay, so neither a couple bad days of eating and drinking nor a couple good days of exercising and cutting calories make much of an impact weight-wise.)
Here are my takeaways from the month:
Pick your cliche.
Whether it’s “slow and steady wins the race” or “no pain, no gain” or any other cliche that reeks of condescension, they all are remarkably suitable for self-improvement. I went three full weeks with little to show for my “pain and suffering.” It’s no wonder I haven’t been able to lose weight these past couple of years: You can’t give up when you feel like crap. You can’t give in to temptation. You just have to keep going. Maybe this is the biggest fallacy of the “diet” industry: there’s no easy solution; only permanent and lasting change will create, well, permanent and—what I hope indeed will be—lasting change!
I know that I still need to drop another 35-40 pounds. This will only happen with persistence, diligence and consistency. There is no finish line here. I am beginning to understand how people who start losing weight become a bit obsessive. I am devising a bit of a scheme for not only losing more weight but keeping it off for the years to come. I cannot possibly do this severe work day-in and day-out forever. I’m not a professional athlete; I don’t have all the time in the world to exercise; my job is still one of being sedentary for long periods of time. Not to mention (okay, I am mentioning it!), I have a fairly active social life that has been impacted a lot by my regimen: I like to drink and I like to spend time with my friends!
Moving forward, I plan to take July “off” (see more on this below), and then double down on August, maybe going like this every other month until I see that magical 150 on the scale (I’m currently bouncing between 188-192). I’m also experimenting with the 5-2 diet, which sounds a lot harder than it is; the key I’ve found is to fast on days when you’re overloaded with activities and don’t have time to eat except on the run. It is pretty easy to skip “food to go” or just grab a piece of fruit rather than something less nutritious.
Boredom is enemy number one.
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think so. I think the main reason why people fail at losing weight is less to do with effort and more to do with how tedious it is. Eating from a restricted menu or undertaking the same set of exercises day in and day out is—to be honest—akin to slow death. In other words, it’s awful. Breaking up the routine is key to sticking with it! As mentioned above, I was on the path for three full weeks before I felt like I was making any real progress. In some ways, being injured wasn’t all bad; it forced me to do exercises I normally wouldn’t and to cut calories when I would rather have been “compensating” for exercising with extra food. Not that I recommend injury as a way to fight boredom!
Figuring out your own tolerance for “the same” is important. I am now doing a “Healthy Living Challenge” with my sister’s friends in Alaska (I’m playing along from afar!). This is not a routine I would have picked for myself, but it’s something new! Basically they have ten daily goals, each worth a point. One day in seven is an automatic 10 points, meaning you can take a day off per week. For me, I’m not planning a day “off” but rather will look at my days week-to-week and eliminate the lowest scores. Here’s their list of point-worthy efforts”
1) Exercise for at least 20 minutes
2) Drink at least 64 ounces of water
3) Get at least seven cumulative hours of sleep (naps count!)
4) No fast food or junk food
5) No soda
6) Five grams or less of refined sugar
7) You may not eat during the two hours prior to bed
8) Eat at least two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables
9) Journal, blog, read, meditate or quiet self reflection for at least ten minutes a day.
10) Complete a random act of kindness or service
The easy parts for me are 2, 5 and 6; I’m unlikely to lose points on these as I drink a ton of water and almost never consume soda or sugar. The fairly-likely-to-accomplish tasks are 1 (I’ve been pretty good with exercise, and 20 minutes is less than half what I typically do), 4 (“junk” is a relative term; I mean, is beer junk food? what about take out/delivery?), 8 (veggies? yes, fruit? not so much) and 9 (hello! writer! but I’m only awarding a point for this one if I do meditation). Thus, I’m likely to have a baseline every day of 7 points. However, numbers 3 and 10 are my biggest challenges. A lot of that is due to my lifestyle: I’m unlikely to complete a “random act of kindness or service” if I never leave my apartment. And the amount I am able to sleep is somewhat outside of my control. I’m also guessing I’ll be pretty hit or miss on the 2-hour cutoff for food, for which I am also counting beer.
The point is that this is some new turn for me and is making me think about my overall health goals in a different way. If I can keep boredom at bay, I’m more likely to forge ahead.
Keep a variety of records/scorecards.
I cannot emphasize this enough: Track your progress and lack thereof. And do it in a variety of fashions. I didn’t keep the daily journal just to have blog fodder, and I sure as HELL didn’t do it to show off my writing skills (wahh wahh I am hungry wahh wahh I miss beer wahh wahh wahh). And I hate hate hate taking pictures of myself, but camera don’t lie, friend! You can deny the size of your ass as much as you want, but sure as shit if someone snaps a photo of it, you’ll be coming face to behind with the truth! And in the 1000-words-worthy world of photography, I can see differences in my appearance that go a lot further towards motivating me to stick with it (we’re all a bit vain now and again) than mere numbers on a scale. Behold, my day 1 (left) and day 30 (right) comparisons:
And finally, I measured my body parts. Inches don’t lie either, and can be really rewarding. Sure, I dropped about one size (I’m now wearing a 10 but my size 12 clothes are just “roomy” not “too big” at this point), but I also lost two inches off my chest and one inch off my bust (since my cup size didn’t change, this was all “back fat” ewww!). I lost a whopping four inches in one month off my waist and three inches off my “baby bump” (praise Ganesha for yoga – no, I’m not Hindi, but I am grateful for plank pose!). I am down an inch off my hips and my thighs??? Well, my thighs didn’t change. And that’s okay. I made my peace with my ass a long time ago; I’m always going to be—in the words of Freddie Mercury—a “fat-bottomed girl.” Besides, I don’t know a single woman who wouldn’t leave her ass alone for four inches off her waist!
But I wouldn’t have known just how much trimmer I was if I hadn’t bothered to measure.
For what it’s worth, the scale may be both a blessing and a curse, but you cannot improve in a vacuum. You need a baseline. And for those who have health issues, your doctor should definitely be a part of that (despite generally eschewing western medicine, I think I would have benefited from knowing my blood sugar/cholesterol levels as part of this challenge).
I do plan to keep going. And that’s the biggest takeaway from the 30-day challenge: I want to keep going! I don’t feel like I put in all this “effort” with no reward. Even with my beer: I’m drinking again, but far less than what I was drinking prior to June. I’m much more mindful about my food intake and I’m okay with not eating everything on my plate. I have a plan to keep motivated, along with continuing to bond with my sister (which is a very good thing in and of itself).
If you’ve been keeping track of this journey with me (and I know there’s at least one person out there who has!) I thank you. I’m often feeling like I’m writing into a void, but ultimately, it’s not about reaching out to anyone in particular. It’s about me taking better care of myself and feeling good for a change.