Thursday, January 31, 2013

Before and [Almost] After

If there's one thing people love to see on blogs about weight loss, it's before and after photos. I've got lots of during photos, and a fair number of almost-after photos, but before photos? Not so much. The thing is, when you're morbidly obese, you've got a tendency to be a little camera shy ...yeah, there I go again with the sweeping generalizations. And if I actually had a reader following, I'd probably get hate mail from morbidly obese women who are happy with their bodies and love to chronicle their life in pictures. Good for you! I'll rephrase... if you're morbidly obese and unhappy with your body, you've probably got a tendency to be a little camera shy. Better?

One day, I'll put together a pictorial to show the progression - from the neck down 'cause let's face it, that's what people want to see but for now, because I'm lazy, and slapping a couple of head shots together is easy, I'll offer the photo below. The one on the left was taken in the summer 2007, and I am cleverly hiding my multiple chins & neck (who am I kidding?) behind a paint roller. That's asking an awful lot of that paint roller, no? The pic on the right was taken mid-December 2012, and about 10 lbs heavier than I am now. There's a little more than 110 lbs lost between the two. ...And lookie, lookie... I do have a neck.
And so an obvious question - and I'm not talking about The Secret -- is why am I posting an after picture that's actually a during picture and not a now picture? Well good question... you know, you can lose close to half yourself, and still find you hate most pictures taken! But perhaps a more positive way of looking at it is this: you won't have to wait until you're "done" to start appreciating the changes you've made. Don't believe me? Go take some pictures and see for yourself!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Secret

Anyone who has lost weight, even a modest amount of weight, will probably tell you that there are a number of questions they get on a regular basis. Questions like the obvious "Have you lost weight?", followed by "How much weight have you lost?". If you've been at this a while, you may also get "How much more weight do you want to lose?". There are also the unexpected, less frequent questions, like: "Are you sick?" Seriously, depending on my mood, I am sometimes tempted to answer that one with "Yes. I'm dying. Would you like to know how much time I have left?" just to watch the reaction. I mean really... what kind of question is that? What if I was sick? Doesn't that just create a really awkward, uncomfortable moment for both of us? But the question everyone will ask at some point or another is "What's the secret?"

I'm going to make a sweeping generalization here but most people are really disappointed in the answer. Because the secret is... wait for it... there is no secret. You know how it's pretty much drilled into us that you need to eat right and exercise? Well, as it turns out, you need to eat right and exercise. And by right, I mean healthy, nutritious foods, in reasonable quantities. In my case, I ate good, mostly whole foods, restricted quantities, and exercised a lot.

This. Is. Not. What. People. Want. To. Hear.

I think people are looking for some simple, painless, easy change they can make that will allow them to pretty much continue doing what they're doing (or not doing), and voila, presto-change-oh, transformation! Something like: I stopped eating blue food. Done! Blueberries were never may favorite berry anyway. Or: I eat a celery stalk before every meal and the fibre from the celery traps my meal and carries it right out of my system. Gross! But OK. Let's order a pizza. Extra cheese?

I talk about hiring a personal trainer and a nutritionist, and how it really is not as expensive as one might think, and I share contact information but so far, neither member of my Dream Team has thanked me for a referral. Now, I share this, not as a judgement, but as an observation. Heck, I've been that person, asking for the inside scoop and being disappointed that it's not double chocolate fudge ice cream. Mmmm ice cream. I haven't had ice cream in... oh... I don't know. I'm not sure exactly. But you could probably grow a human and have weeks left over. Anyhoo...

This week, I had a different experience with someone wanting to know the secret. And it was ...hmmm... trying to think of the best word to describe it. Offensive?

Early one morning, I was walking through a corridor at my workplace and was stopped by a woman I know by sight (because I pass through her work area) but not by name. It was very early and no one else was in yet. And instead of stopping at the usual "Good morning" "Good morning" exchange, she reached a hand out to stop me and said "You look fantastic!" I know. What a bitch, right? Ha, kidding! I know, I know... What's so offensive about that? Nothing.

Then she leaned in and said "So..." then looked around and kind of gave me a sly look and said "What did you do?" Translation: What's the secret?

"Diet & exercise." I replied.

She gave me a smirk, leaned in closer and said "Come on. What did you do?"

"Really. That's it. I'm very disciplined with my eating. I eat mostly whole foods, and I don't eat a lot. And I exercise. A lot."

She shook her head, smiled patronizingly and said "Come on..."

Now, I was starting to get annoyed.

"Really. I run 4-5 days a week. I'm on my bike 3 days a week. I swim a few times a week. I work out with weights 3-4 days a week. I go to yoga once a week. I exercise a lot."

She rolled her eyes and said "Where would you find the time? What do you do, get up at 4:00 in the morning?"

Great sarcastic question! Because... "Actually YES. Some days I do. Fridays for example. I get up at 4 a.m. and do a 6 km run and then a weight workout with my personal trainer before coming in to work."

That shut down that line of questioning and then she moved on to wanting to know The Number in terms of how much I'd lost. But I'm pretty sure she still doesn't believe me. I'm not sure what would have satisfied her. I figure she thinks I either had gastric bypass surgery, or took hcg, or drank the blood of fluffy kittens before sacrificing their lifeless bodies to a demon god or something. Yeah, that sounds more like a secret!

People are strange beings. I know. That's no secret either! I'm still trying to think of a good response to such an offensive line of questioning again. And I know I shouldn't really give two hoots but there's a part of me that wonders, if there's one individual bold enough to hint that there's something "more" going on when it comes to my weight loss, how many others are thinking the same thing?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Beginning. The End. The Food.

The inaugural post on a new blog. This should be easy to compose right? After all, why start a blog if you have nothing to say? Actually - I have too much to say and am trying to hone in one thought to open with. And I want it to be articulate. And interesting. And funny. Maybe it won't be any of those things. Maybe it will just "be".

One of my dear friends, who I covet as a sister, has been encouraging me to start a blog for a while now. She feels I have things to share that will help people struggling with their weight, as I have been.

In fact, I have been on a many-year (OK, life-long) journey to lose weight. In the last 5 years, I have had success. Success at losing. Success at maintaining through a plateau. A long plateau. A 3+ year plateau. And success at losing again after the plateau. And then suddenly - and it felt like suddenly - I was done. Or was I? And that's the thing. What do you do when you're done? How do you know when you're done?

I'm not talking about maintaining... not really. I had a 3+ year plateau, I knew how to maintain. I'm talking about deciding that it's time to stop chasing a number on the scale. And then figuring out how to live as someone who's not trying to lose weight. You think it's going to be easy. Because you hit the magic number and suddenly, the sun comes out, you see double-rainbows, there are puppies all around you and chocolate, cookies and pizza are all calorie free... OK, no, I didn't really expect it to be like that. But I didn't expect it to be like it was. Which went something like this:

Starting out at 255 lbs, I picked a number that was higher than when I graduated from high school but lower than when I met my husband and started having kids: 135. Kind of arbitrary but there it was. My doctor said I'd never, ever get there: 150 if you're lucky.

So fast forward forever and a day, and the scale said: 134.8. Close enough. I was wearing a size 4 pant. I was running, biking, weight training, swimming, yogaing... and I didn't have that dream body. My stomach in particular: ew. Also my upper arms. Not the thick shapeless hams they used to be, but not what I wanted. Must go lower I concluded. And I did. Not a lot - I drifted down to 132 and I won't get into the reasons why I gave my head a shake one morning and thought "enough" - maybe another day - but I did. And I just decided: I was done trying to lose weight. I decided that the number on the scale was no longer particularly meaningful, that changing my shape was still a goal but that obsessing over that number on the scale was no longer the way to evaluate it. And that really, I wanted to focus on more meaningful goals: like running faster, like completing a Half Ironman.

Only here's the thing: when you've spent so long working on losing weight, and succeeding at it, it's actually hard to shift gears. Really hard. Especially if your success was due in large part to becoming a highly restrictive food Nazi who felt powerful and in control when she kept the calories low. I was afraid to eat more for fear of getting fat again. And whenever someone asked me how much more I wanted to lose, or what I weighed, I internalized that as an assessment that more weight loss was needed. I was in my own personal Crazy Town.

My trainer had been pleading with me for months to eat more. I did.. reluctantly... agreeing to make 1200 calories a minimum for the day (yes, that was eating MORE). I also started reading a bit of Go Kaleo's blog and Facebook page. And then she shared a post by Jennifer at One Lovely Run. And I started to think... and consider... and wonder. The stuff Amber was saying at Go Kaleo was not any different than what my trainer had been telling me for months... really... but there was more detail, more science and a post that I just really needed to see at exactly the time that I saw it (despite the ominous page ID!

And in a perfect storm of shared personal experience and information (i.e. blogs above), my own internal conflict at deciding to be "done" trying to lose weight, I got some disappointing bloodwork back from the Lab (nothing serious, just a whole raft of abnormal ranges suggesting iron, folate, and B12 deficiencies) and ramped up my training schedule as I began to prepare for the Half Ironman and... I hit a wall. I didn't want to go for my run (this almost NEVER happens). I didn't want to do anything but lie down and sleep. And maybe eat. And then my trainer said, as he does every freaking week: EAT. And this... with Jennifer's post about eating, and Amber's pleading with everyone to just eat the damn food... Well... I decided OK, maybe it was time to stop starving myself and just... eat. My trainer challenged me to start with a 2000 calorie minimum. That was Friday.

Friday & Saturday, I ate the damn food. 2000 calories of wholesome, good food. More than the 2 starch servings I'd been allowing myself for months. I had a really intense workout schedule on Friday (spin + weights + swim) and Saturday (run + swim + spin) and then started today with a swim, before heading out on a 20km long run, which I expected, on the heels of the previous 48 hours of workouts to be a long, arduous low energy slog. It was joyous. The easiest, strongest long run I've ever had. Ever. Ever. Wait... EVER. It has to be the food.

And so this is my today. My success today. I ate the food. And it was a good thing.