I spent the majority of last week feeling angry and confused about why the numbers on my scale haven’t budged. I even, in all my craziness, thought that my apartment’s sloping floors were to blame. I took my scale from my bathroom tile to my bedroom hardwood and tried there. Same number. I jumped on the scale in the gym locker room pre-workout. Same number. All of this is strange to me because my boyfriend says I look like I’ve lost weight. My coworker says the same. Even if I was losing fat and inches and not weight, my clothes would be fitting differently…but they’re not. It’s as if I am living the exact same lifestyle I was before (eating lots of sweets, eating lots of cheese, and not working out at all). It’s frustrating because I’m not. My boyfriend sees the breakfasts and lunches I pack myself for my work day. I eat healthier than anyone he knows, he says. I’m not perfect the rest of the time. I do still eat the occasional sweet, but I refuse to give that up. That would be deprivation. I will not succumb to a lifetime of no chocolate. That isn’t fair to me, my body, or my brain.
The conclusions I’ve drawn are these:
- I’m not eating as healthy as I think I am. When I was a freshman in college, I had gained about 15 pounds (what a stereotype). I went to the women’s services clinic to refill my pill prescription and when the doctor asked if I had any questions, I said yes: I keep gaining weight and I don’t know why. I told her I thought it was because of the pill. She had me try a low-dose pill that made no change to my weight but screwed my cycle up completely. When I returned a month later to be put back on the original pill, I sat with her for maybe 10 minutes, nearly in tears, telling her how much I hate my body and how I don’t know what to do. She asked if I was exercising regularly. I said a few times a week–not as much as I could–but I lived in the farthest dorm on campus and I always walked to class, I never took the bus. She said that should be making a difference. Her ultimate suggestion was this: maybe you’re not eating quite as healthy as you think you are. Make a food journal, she said. And once you start tracking your food intake, seek a nutritionist’s advice. I never did make that food journal, I never saw a nutritionist, and I went on to gain another 20 pounds by my senior year. But that idea always stays with me: maybe what I think is healthy isn’t as healthy as I thought. This is where food tracking comes in. This is why Weight Watchers worked for me my senior year of college and I dropped 25 pounds in no time at all. This is why I’m trying to track my calories now on MyFitnessPal. I’ve learned that this is a necessary part in my losing weight, but unlike my senior year in college, the weight isn’t coming off as rapidly. In fact, it isn’t coming off at all. Which brings me to…
- The conditions of my first weight loss success are not aligned with my current conditions. When I lost weight on Weight Watchers, I really don’t think of it as a healthy weight loss. It worked, yes, but what I was eating was abominable. Let me paint the picture for you: I was a full-time student and I worked two part-time jobs, one of which being a retail job selling chocolate. I was incredibly busy which resulted in very quickly eating all of my meals, which were mostly processed TV dinners. I can’t think of more than twice that year that I cooked. We ate out a lot, like when my boyfriend would visit, and I heated up more Lean Cuisines than I can even count during the week. Not to mention the fact that I saved all my points for beer. I figured out the point count of the chocolates at work and I knew how many I could have that would be the equivalent point count of dinner. I knew the point count of McDonald’s egg McMuffins and hash browns for those days I was hung over but had to be at work at 9. I was incredibly irresponsible and I subsisted on the absolute worst diet you can imagine…and I lost weight. The reason for this, I can only conclude, was that I was much more active than I thought I was. I exercised sometimes, but not regularly, but the main difference is that: 1) I worked at least 20 hours a week in a retail setting where I spent the entire time standing. Standing burns more calories than sitting. and 2) my other job was on campus, so I was walking to class and/or work every day of the week. The walk to and from class or work was 15 minutes each way. Sometimes I made that trip twice, sometimes three times. I was burning calories just because I was busy, basically. Now my life is that of a sedentary deskjob worker. Now I have to find ways to schedule cardio in order to burn calories, and the calories I’m burning in those workouts aren’t even close to the calories I burned when I lost weight in college–and at that time, I wasn’t even trying.
By the end of my senior year, I had plateaued on Weight Watchers. In April I decided to give up meat and return to the vegetarian diet I had followed since my freshman year of high school until Thanksgiving of my freshman year of college. I vowed to start eating better when I moved home. I thought giving up meat again would give me the push I needed to get past the plateau I’d been at for months. I also gave up Weight Watchers because I felt like a slave to the program. I thought I had learned enough about calories and fats to continue my weight loss on my own. Slowly, without my even realizing it, I started to put the weight back on. I was at about a 10 pound weight gain when I left my first post-grad job, and one of the major perks of my new job (my current job) was free access to the office gym. I thought, this is fantastic! I will never have an excuse again! For about a month, I went to the gym religiously after work. And then work started to stress me out and I returned to my old ways of skipping the gym and comforting myself with food. Now I’m at the weight I started at, the heaviest weight of my life that prompted me to go on Weight Watchers in the first place…+5. This was one of my first and main reasons for adopting a vegan lifestyle. As a vegetarian, I wasn’t all that healthy. I didn’t eat as many fruits and vegetables as I should and I ate a lot (a lot) of cheese. I really thought that cutting all that out would make a huge difference. I thought my body would be startled into submission.
And that’s when I decided to start training for this 5k. Now it’s been 6 or 7 weeks and I’ve only lost 3 pounds. I lost those 3 pounds in the first week, which shows me that what I’m doing is not working. I’ve spent a lot of time researching this on the internet. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering what I can possibly do to remedy this short of quitting my job and working out 8 hours a day. I have at least 45 pounds to lose to be put back in a healthy BMI range. I know the BMI equation is archaic but I know that I’m 45 pounds away from being at a healthy weight. I would take a 35 pound weight loss. I would accept fighting with those last 10 pounds for the rest of my life. It seems impossible to me, though. I know the answer is adding activity into my day that doesn’t feel like organized cardio. I know I should try to take walks outside on my breaks at work. I know I should try to take walks on weekends or after work. To be honest, when I get home after my workout on weeknights, I am utterly exhausted. The idea of going outside and walking for an hour is absolutely unappealing to me. I want to shower, eat dinner, and relax on the couch. It doesn’t feel like there are enough hours in the day to repair the damage I’ve done to my body.
My cause is further complicated by the fact that my boyfriend also needs to lose weight but we both feed off each other’s addictions. I never watched TV before I met him but he loves TV, so we sit and watch every night and snack. When he’s munching on chips, I get instant jealousy. I want chips. We go grocery shopping together and I pick up my produce, my whole grains, and he sneaks a case of diet coke into the cart or a bag of chips or some cookies. I want to be at a place where I can have a bag of chips in my house and not want to sit on the kitchen floor and eat the entire bag. I want to be able to have junkfood in moderation. Moderation is the spice of life. I know myself well enough to know that if I told myself that I can have absolutely no, ZERO, chips, cookies, sweets, anything–that I will break. I will cave. and I will binge.
We watched Forks Over Knives last month and we both had a renewed interest in trying harder. My renewed interest lasted longer than his. Yesterday, I added a few other documentaries to our Netflix queue to try to get both of us re-interested. Last night, we watched Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. Such an inspiring story. And now our interest is renewed, yet again. He has to work today so we packed him a healthy breakfast and lunch and called it “Day 1.” We need to do this together. As an omnivore, he doesn’t have many food choices when he’s here. He picks around veggies when I cook and opts for the grains, the meat substitutes, the potatoes. I, on the other hand, find my tastes are changing. I made oatmeal yesterday morning but didn’t have any fresh fruit to put in it. I found myself aching for strawberries and blueberries. The same with dinner: we made seitan with red potatoes and broccoli. There was definitely not enough broccoli to go around. I found myself wanting it so badly–I would have been fine if my plate had been half full of broccoli. I just love fruits and veggies. He doesn’t have that habit ingrained in his eating.
We watched a P90X infomercial Friday night (while drinking beer on the couch, of course) and I realized what that program offers compared to what I’m doing. My workouts are routine. I run on the treadmill or work out on the elliptical and I do the same 3 or 4 weight training exercises. I don’t have variety. The “muscle confusion” Tony Horton talks about is something my body hasn’t experienced. When I do try something new and my muscles are confused, it takes my body over 2 days to adjust from the soreness. I can’t take 2 days off every time I try something new. That’s 2 days wasted. I’m knocking on 24’s door but I feel like my body is 50 years old. Part of this, I have to wonder, might be genetics. I do not come from an active family. I sometimes wonder if my food addiction has genetic bearings. My father comforts himself with food. He has type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and other diseases he hasn’t even divulged to me. But he doesn’t make a change. He doesn’t think he has the willpower. I have to wonder if I’m a product of that…whether it be hereditary or environmental, I grew up watching him and I’ve absorbed his habits. I’m trying to combat that but I’m stuck once again. I feel angry every single day while I’m on the way to the gym that I even have to carve time out of my schedule to exercise. I curse myself for not living in a pedestrian-friendly location. I live in the suburbs and here, people don’t walk or bike anywhere unless they can’t afford a car. That is crazy! One of the perks of living in the apartment I do is that I am in walking distance of all of my town’s restaurants, bars, shops, etc. I could go for walks, go window shopping, make a whole morning out of it on the weekend, but I don’t!
In the past few weeks, I’ve tried to make small changes to my diet. I’ve subbed in no-calorie stevia for the 60-calorie tbsp of agave nectar I was putting in my coffee each morning. I’ve been bringing half a grapefruit to work (52 calories) instead of the 250-300 calorie green smoothies I was having for breakfast. At the beginning of the year, I made a non-resolution to drink only on weekends. I had been drinking at least one beer a day on weekdays and much more on weekends. Now I limit that to only Fridays and Saturdays, and usually only drink a beer or two. I have isolated myself from my social circle in order to avoid overeating and excessive drinking. These changes, still, have not made a difference.
In the end, I’m not sure where to go from here. I need change but the changes I need to make feel humungous. They feel out of reach. Maybe I’m making mountains out of mole hills but I’m feeling quite lost. How I could possibly eat 1,400 calories a day and burn 300 of them working out and still not see change is utterly baffling to me. As I age, this will only get harder. I will be fighting this battle for the rest of my life.
Are you fighting this battle? How have you overcome adversity?