If you have been following my blog for a little bit of time, my weight loss has come up often. Including talking about my relationship with food. It is something I am extremely proud of: Losing over 60 pounds in one year. This is amazing. But I am also embarrassed by the same achievement. I’m embarrassed I let myself get to that weight.
Don’t get me wrong, some of it is hereditary (my paternal grandmother was extremely obese), some of it is age, but most of it was me being out of control. But ironically it wasn’t out of control eating. It was simply convenience eating. It ranged from snacks instead of good healthy meals, most of which were made of empty calories, to really bad fast food. And as I look back now and track my calories, I was eating one of the highest calorie items from fast food joints. And honestly, never realized it. An Italian sandwich (one of my favs) can have more calories than a Big Mac®! WTF, right? I found that in some cases I was eating about 3/4 of the recommend daily calorie intake in one meal!
To top it all off, even though I had purchased an Apple Watch, I was not tuned into the move, exercise and stand counters. I resented the watch when at 9 p.m. it would tell me I could still hit my move ring with a 45-minute walk! Umm, no way. And mind you the move calories was probably set at about 300 calories.
In other words, I was pretty much a mess. So, how did I turn this around?
We didn’t own a scale in our house. So, it wasn’t until I went to the doctor for an annual physical (which was 5 years late!) that I learned my weight. I knew it was high, and the highest it probably it had ever been, but that still didn’t prepare me for the number.
Now let me say, if you are at this weight, or above, and you are comfortable with it and feel good about it, more power to you. You do you. I was not only physically uncomfortable (aches, pains, and I was struggling to tie my shoes), I was about to begin facing health problems with any additional weight. I had to make changes for myself and for both physical and emotional reasons. But this is me, not you.
So, the number. It was 212.6 lbs. What disappointed me was the fact that it was over 200. I swore to my younger self I would never allow myself to get over 200. And I broke that promise. I didn’t do it intentionally, but I know where I went wrong. I put more emphasis on my job and career, than I did on myself. And that was a big mistake on a lot of different levels; but that story for another day.
Let me be clear: I HATE EXERCISE! And when you are carrying more weight than normal, any exercise can be difficult, and potentially painful. In order to keep myself motivated and committed to exercise, I had to find things I enjoyed (at least somewhat).
There are a couple of things I enjoy. A walk. A swim. A bike ride. And that is where I started. A one-mile walk. A 200-yard swim. A two-mile bike ride. And I continued to work my way up: Two-mile walk, 400-yard swim, five-mile bike ride. Another level: Three-mile walk, 900-yard (1/2 mile) swim, 10-mile bike ride. Then I focused on speed: 15-minute mile walk, 30-minute 1/2-mile swim, 1-hour 10-mile bike ride.
Plus, I’m able to improve my mental wellness with these exercises. I can do the walk or bike ride at the Waterfall Glenn Forest Preserve of DuPage County or the Morton Arboretum and immerse myself in nature. I’ve seen deer, coyotes and hawks up close on my walks/rides. During the summer I can swim at my condo’s pool and get some sunshine at the same time.
Those first few mornings of exercise were brutal. Those first couple of days of watching my calorie intake I was hungry. No, starving. But every new step I took felt better and less difficult. And I figured out eating intervals that didn’t leave me hungry. But I won’t lie, I wanted to quit. But in that first week I lost 6 lbs. and I was excited and motivated. Within a month I had lost 11 lbs. and there was no stopping me.
I was feeling better physically but also emotionally. I was proud of myself, proud of my accomplishment to date. Happy that I found things I enjoyed eating and doing for exercise. I had more energy, more enthusiasm and just felt so good all around.
And while the weight just didn’t fall off, and I had my ups and downs, I focused on my mindset more than my weight on the scale. That, ultimately, gave me the motivation to continue. My muscles were sore, I was tired on some days after a hard workout, finding time was a struggle somedays, and somedays I just wanted a bowl of ice cream for lunch and not a salad. But every day I was happier, felt better about myself, my world around me, less stress, and, if nothing else, I needed to continue that mindset. And eating healthier and working out was doing that, so I was sticking with it. Weight loss just became the bonus.
I was beginning to feel amazing emotionally. More so than physically. I felt better physically, but I still had a long way to go. The total goal is 72 lbs. in 18 months. I will make it. But it is slow. It is four pounds a month, or a pound a week. Which some may consider slow, but it is healthy.
I would have probably given up though, as it was really slow. I’ve plateaued in weight here and there, and I sometimes feel about the same even when losing 5 lbs. in a month. It was my emotional well-being that really drove this continuation.
Not only did I give myself a boost of self-confidence and self-esteem, but it was coming from other people noticing that helped fuel a better emotional state. So, what worked for me is to pay attention to the scale, mostly to make sure I wasn’t slipping. But to really pay attention and honor my emotional well-being that drove me to continue. With it, I didn’t have to fight with myself to eat healthy or exercise. My brain told me I would feel better emotionally, and I would work out and eat healthy even if my body said no, I hurt, I’m tired, I want ice cream.
Weight loss is not just about eating less and healthy and working out. It is a change in mindset, that brings about more positive feelings. Without the change in mindset, you are just on a diet, and not doing a lifestyle change. And ultimately that could mean failure. Focus on mindset, not weight loss. The weight loss will follow.