It is extremely fortuitous that I would choose to write a blog after so long, on this particular day, as WordPress is informing me today is our one year anniversary together. I haven’t been a great partner (kind of flaky, really), so thanks for putting up with me buddy. Hopefully we keep a closer relationship this next year. If you want to skip a super long entry with a lot of detail and just hit the tie-in for the title of the blog, you can skip down past the horizontal line near the end of the post. Otherwise, buckle up.
You may wonder why I’ve been so silent for so many months, or perhaps you were relieved to avoid exposure to my jibber-jabber, but I’ve been through a really dark season and I just didn’t feel like putting any words out into the universe. I could fill you in on every detail of difficulty, but I’d rather not. Suffice it to say, life’s been pretty taxing. I don’t know that it has stopped being so, but I have chosen to grasp my pieces of sunshine in between the tornadoes and move forward from here.
Suffice it to say, I didn’t handle the slump by being super fabulous and successful with my LEAP protocol (ehem, food rotation, anyone?) – or my gym game… Or my sleep game. I never threw caution to the wind completely, but… I stopped tracking calories. (Yes, believe me, even with my limits I can pack in some serious calories, and some of them are very, very delicious.) I also convinced myself that just because it didn’t make me sick (i.e. any food from my approved list), I could eat it whenever I wanted and as much of it as I wanted. I “tried” to stick to rotation, but I was super sloppy. I also became a sugar maniac. I found really inventive and delicious ways to make banana bread, banana ice cream, peanut butter and banana smoothies, four ingredient peanut butter cookies, homemade granola with homemade almond milk. I also found apple + strawberry bars at Trader Joe’s, and my own personal prepackaged form of crack: Dang Caramel Sea Salt Coconut Chips. Dang those coconut chips. Dang them, for sure.
So… I stopped losing weight. Yes, I’ve lost 50 pounds. That, all by itself, is a true accomplishment, and I give myself credit for it. Not losing any further weight doesn’t undo the success of the weight loss that I had already achieved, and this was a new train of thought for me so… I decided I was cool with staying there for awhile. And really, I truly was. It felt good to really appreciate the hard work I’d already done, and not feel like I had to keep pushing for more. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with cooling your dietary jets for a short time and letting yourself plateau. Except… I wasn’t really acknowledging that my plateau was all about me and my behavior. I just pretended that I was in a natural weight loss plateau and I’d pick back up again. When I didn’t lose any weight for a few weeks, I thought, “Okay, well, I don’t want to change my eating habits right now, so, I guess I’m just not going to lose weight for awhile, that’s cool.”
Then we were playing scale ping-pong. Up two pounds, down three pounds. Up one pound, down two pounds. I felt like a liar on days I knew my total loss was really 48 pounds when people asked how much I’d lost and I said “50 pounds.”
Know what you don’t feel like doing when you’re eating sugar all the time (and yes, that definitely includes copious amounts of fruit sugar)? For some reason, you just don’t feel like going to the gym!! So now we had the perfect storm of too many empty calories and not enough movement.
So… last Thursday… I stepped on the scale. I kind of knew. I mean, it had been warning me with those up and down three pound gains, that the storm was brewing and the JIG WAS UP, LADY. There is was: a five pound gain. I felt sick. I felt… defeated. I also felt a very scary feeling that I had not felt in a long time: utter failure. Historically, this is always the point where I start gaining and then I’m back where I started, or even heavier than before.
I let myself mope around for the morning. I talked down to myself, calling myself a loser, and fat, and stupid, and making sure I knew that I’d never get where I wanted to be, and who did I think I was? I reached out to my friends and talked about how upset I was. Then I asked myself to get real specific. What did I really feel? I felt… out of control. That was an interesting thought, because while the opposite of a loser is a winner, and you can’t always swing yourself right back into feeling like a winner when you feel like you’re the guy that came in right after the bronze medalist, there’s a really clear opposite to “out of control,” and that is “under control.” When I was losing weight steadily, it’s because I was keeping things under control. I had my food under control, I had a good gym routine that was working for me. I ran the show, and I wasn’t just letting life “happen” to me. All of a sudden, correcting that five pound weight gain had nothing to do with beating myself up because I was a failure, it was about cause and effect. If I wanted to feel like things were under control, I had to get in control of myself, and my habits again. And I had no doubt I could do it because I had been right on track for quite some time. The best way to get in control? A plan.
Believe it or not, as soon as I decided to focus on the control aspect of the issue, things changed immediately. At the end of day five (I’m including Thursday because I got my butt to the gym that night!), I have not only lost that 5 pounds, but two more – that’s right, 52 pounds! I’ve already turned it around. I’m not tooting my own horn, or trying to tell you how special I am. I’m not special, I’m just a survivor of being fat and unhealthy, and I decided to stay a survivor and not a victim. Here’s what I did, and hopefully this helps you if you fall off the health wagon and need some motivation:
- I made a TWO WEEK menu. I am going to send this post to my nutritionist after I am done writing this, and there is not a single thing snide or superior thing about her, so I’m going to give her permission to go ahead and roll her eyes and mouth the words “I-told-you-so” at the screen when she hits this portion. Rotation is a complete pain in my… It’s a real pain. And it’s pretty much impossible to be successful if you don’t make a menu. I am realizing that the very last post I made in January was about struggling with all of these things, and menu planning/rotation is something I haven’t gotten around to explaining yet. To be brief, you cannot eat the same food/food family (i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, brussells sprouts, radishes and kale are all in the cruciferous vegetable family) more than once every three days. You can eat as much of those foods, one, or all, on day one, but on day two and three you need to avoid them. This prevents your body from forming new sensitivities to food that it’s currently okay with. I had planned on doing a better job of explaining this at some point, but I think that’s good enough, and so you understand my pain (and the pain of anyone with my types of food issues), please remember I can eat about 70 different foods/ingredients (including spices, etc.) and that well over half of them belong in food families. IT’S A PAIN. IT’S A REAL DAMN PAIN. BUT GUESS WHAT? IF YOU MAKE A MENU IT’S ABOUT 90% LESS OF A PAIN. It took me well over an hour, maybe even two, to come up with 14 days worth of rotated food, and honestly – it was pretty brutal. The reward is great, though: now I wake up in the morning knowing exactly what I’m going to be eating, and IT. IS. GLORIOUS. It’s so… effortless! I had all these excuses for why I didn’t want to make a menu, all this negativity, how hateful it was, but none of that helped me. None of that helped me be successful. Winging it never worked. There were so many days I was left confused, hungry, and scrambling around for something to eat, not 100% sure I hadn’t had it only two days a go, instead of three. I am literally never going to go without a menu again. Food doesn’t feel like a burden since I’m trying to carry around what I ate in my head, and I’m totally certain I’m eating more variety than I was before.
- I have to write down every calorie. I just do. (I hate it, but I hate paying my taxes too, and I still begrudgingly do that.) It was really, really easy to lose weight without trying at the beginning of LEAP when every single food you’re eating is super low on your reactive list, and you have no clue how to make the foods you get to eat turn into naughty calorie bombs (I’m tell y’all, four ingredient peanut butter cookies). Now, I definitely have to think about caloric impact like all the other humans. Fitbit is my calorie jailer of choice, and for me it works amazing since we use the Fitbit Aria Scale and I have a Fitbit Charge HR on my wrist as I write this. (Yes, I even let myself get into a slump with a Fitbit. It taunted me… a lot.
10,000 steps my big fat…) What I love the most about all of my fitness trackers/calorie trackers and scale working together as a team, is that while I have to put in the fitness effort and the effort to write down what I’m consuming, I don’t have to figure out how much on my own. If I’m getting low on calories and it’s not dinner yet, I can choose any of these three scenarios: a) eat a smaller portion to stick to what I’ve got, b) eat as much as I want and realize that I won’t be losing any weight that day, or possibly have a gain, or (my personal favorite), c) go burn some calories and earn the right to eat more. Which brings me to:
- Keep my Fitbit HR HAPPY. When I was taking a good hard look into the scale, I realized that I was really good at telling people what I meant to be doing at the gym, and not what I’ve actually been doing there. My original plan was dancing Mondays, lifting Wednesdays, and cardio Fridays. It sounds really neat and tidy, but I’m not a neat and tidy person. (I mean, it took me two months to harass myself into creating a menu…) I still hope to do that, but what if that routine doesn’t work for me? Does that mean I just get to stop moving? NO. My friend Robin and I took over an hour walk on Sunday night; it earned me a lot of calories back and got me out into the open air and some time with a friend. My body didn’t care that I wasn’t sticking to an exact plan. JUST MOVE. Or… don’t. And eat less. I love to eat, so it just makes sense to move. Now I feel rewarded by my food in a healthy way, like my salmon and sweet potato fries are gold medals I earned from shaking my way through dance class. I still have hope that some day my M-W-F gym schedule will just be some natural thing, but in the mean time, keeping a calorie and activity balance is the main thing.
- Keep baking/treats to once per week. Hey, homemade granola is fantastic, but perhaps I shouldn’t be making a batch of that and a batch of cookies the same week, hmmm? I have not scheduled any treats into these first two weeks of menu planning purposefully, but I will work them back in and they will have their PLACE, which is not at the forefront, and they will have to fit into my calorie budget, which again, probably means some exercise.
Tonight, I found myself thinking about this very famous quote from professional athlete Arthur Ashe: “Success is a journey, not a destination.” Sometimes when you hear things over and over, they lose all meaning to you, but tonight this hit me in a fresh way. I thought… what if success was a destination? That would mean success was STATIONARY. STAGNANT. You’d get to Success-ville and then what… park? Soak up the success of the other people who had made it there with you? How boring. No progress has ever been made by smug satisfaction. Not in physical health, not in pursuing communion with other people, or with God. Not in business. Not in development of new technology. You can’t reach success because it’s always changing.
I think that for a health journey like mine, the path to success kind of looks like… being offered the opportunity to go on a fabulous, amazing, glob trotting vacation for free… but you have to bring your kids. It would really be just… so much easier to stay home. I mean, for real. Snacks, extra clothes, diapers if the kiddos are babies, blankets, toys, you name it. It’s all got to come along, you can’t go without it. Then you have to think about everyone’s sleep schedule, and keep the kids from killing each other, and dad’s going to blow a gasket if anyone says they have to go potty, or “he touched me…” One. More. Time. You could just stay home and avoid all of that hassle… But if you stay home, you’ll miss the African Safari, perhaps watching your daughter touch an elephant’s trunk for the first time. You won’t see beautiful blue seas of Greece or walk the Great Wall. You’ll never be for sure if the croissants in France taste better than the knock-offs at Starbucks. You wouldn’t experience any of that because it was too hard and annoying and inconvenient, and you knew there would be some moments that just absolutely were going to suck – you’d also lose out on the wonder, the amazement, the memories. The accomplishments.
Success is something you take with you. You have to carry it in your pocket, and it’s kind of heavy, maybe even a little inconvenient. Maybe it’s REALLY inconvenient. It kind of bangs against your leg like your iPhone 800c.2a or whatever. You have to keep track of it and remember to charge it. You have to update its software constantly, and make sure you don’t let anyone take it away from you. You and your friend can have the same model but if you switch, you’ll see how differently their “iSuccess” is customized to them and their needs.
Success that can be parked at is just a milestone. I lost 50 pounds, but I can’t park there. It’s a great milestone, it’s huge and should be celebrated in a big way, but I’m not done, and I’ll never be done. I think I’m just starting to understand that. And thank goodness it’s a journey, cause I want to keep moving.