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.


  1. Congratulations! Karin, you have accomplished so much in the last five years. I admire you for your courage. Here's to you and learning to live and thrive in the new world.

  2. YES! Congratulations. You have a blog voice. I'm very proud of you!

    One part of exercise I grew to dislike, briefly, when undereating, was that long, arduous energy slog. Eating made that go away and turned it back into an adventure and a "getting stronger" kick-ass session. Every time.

    I don't think you have a follow button set up. But I'll be back.


  3. Found your blog via Go Kaleo's FB post sharing this blog post. I hope you keep writing and sharing your thoughts, I'm interested to read more about your weight loss journey (and new happy-weight state)!

    I have taken up running to try and lose weight after giving birth to my first child. It's not been the rainbows and glitter I imagined because I find that I crave more food when I work out hard, and so I eat more carbs and protein that I should eat, but my weight isn't melting off like I want it to (just did 11 miles two days ago!! I've never run that far before!). I'm pretty sure I'm on a plateau.

    The part of your post about reaching your goal weight but not having the stomach or arms you idealized really spoke to me. I need to be ready for that eventuality if/when I lose these last 15 or so pounds to get to my goal.

    1. Hi Christine,

      Thanks for your comments! Way to go on your 11 mile run! Love the long run! Are you training for a fun run/race? I found that having an event to focus on kept me consistent in my running, even when the weight loss stopped. Emerging the other side of that plateau, my advice is: change it up. If you think you've really plateau'd, it may be time to add something new (weights!), vary the intensity (some short speedwork instead of logging distance) or go see a nutritionist for some food advice. On the other hand... don't fret. You may not be on a plateau, you may just be adjusting, and preparing for the next trip down!

      My arms are looking better than they were even a month ago, so that's encouraging. The stomach? Not so much! I am trying to love my body for what it can do, not how it looks... trying.

      Keep in touch!


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  5. Hi, Karin!

    Twelve weeks ago, I started working out at Crossfit, and 3 weeks ago, I started eating whole foods only. I am at 274 lbs now, and I came across your blog when I googled "Strong is the new beautiful." So far, I have only read this one post and I admired your pictures on the top. I have my own blog as well. I am hoping to one day post some amazing after photos. Thank you for sharing your story!