I know it’s been a good long while since I last wrote. In fact, the last time I wrote, I had just had my gallbladder removed and was recovering from that surgery.
Earlier this year, one of my friends who follows (followed? since I haven’t written in so long) this blog asked me if I would be writing in it again. I danced around the topic, saying that life had gotten in the way and that I simply hadn’t had time to do it, which was partially true.
But really what stopped me from writing was this:
I allowed me to get in the way of my progress and regained 75 pounds in 18 months.
I let the knowledge that my knees are shot dictate how much activity I engaged in weekly (from 5 days a week of 90 minute workouts to nothing) and what sorts of foods I let myself eat.
I’ve had another 2 birthdays since the news of my shoddy knees was delivered by my orthopedic surgeon and in that time, I haven’t been very good to myself.
As a consequence, I haven’t felt very good about myself in over a year.
You can see how this can easily become a vicious cycle, no? Weight gain + feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth –> regain –> feelings of low self-esteem and self worth –> behavioral fatigue magnified –> regain.
I’d gotten to my lowest weight ever–210–in the fall of 2014 and was thrilled because I’d never imagined I’d ever see a number so close to 200 pounds before. I thought that maybe my eventual goal of weighing less than 200 pounds was within reach.
But no matter how hard I tried, no matter how little I ate, how much protein I put down, how much exercise I did, the scale didn’t budge.
I got tired of fighting my body. And when Dr. Ramsey said “no more squats, no running, no leg presses,” I took that as an affirmation that it was okay to stop fighting.
Except it wasn’t.
You see, my body only knows how to lose or gain weight. It doesn’t know how to keep it off for the long term. My biology is such that I have to work so very much harder than the average bear to keep weight off once it’s lost, and I’ll be honest–doing that work gets extraordinarily tiring after a while.
I won’t lie; I got tired. It is a lot of work to shop for the food you’re going to eat in a week. It’s even more work to prepare meals for a week. It is a lot of work to plan menus and measure out the right portions. It’s even more work to convince yourself that what you’re doing is good for you, especially when the Fat Girl in your head tells you, “But it’s so much easier to go out!”
Clothes stopped fitting correctly. I stopped feeling good about how I looked. I stopped caring too much about how I looked.
75 pounds and 2 pants sizes later, I finally sat up and paid attention. I started working with a trainer in March. I figured I’d ease back into getting healthy again by forcing myself to go to the gym, but that this time I’d go because I was paying someone to be there to teach me to properly lift weights so I wouldn’t hurt myself or further aggravate injuries I already had (knees and shoulder).
I’m pleased to report that I’ve gone every week since I started on my birthday with the exception of the two weeks I was gone for the AP reading, and for the AP summer institute I went to. I’ve regained range of motion in my left shoulder (which got jacked up somehow) and have begun to see my upper body start to look more sculpted under all the fat I’ve put back on. My legs are another story–but I’ll work on that.
I plan to add two more days of exercise to my schedule once school starts on the 15th. Since I’m doing very little cardio these days, I’m planning on making those other two days cardio days–the bike, elliptical, maybe even aqua fit classes. I figure it’s just two more days and just means I have to force myself to get to bed early during the school week, which I should be doing anyway.
I decided that this time would be different and that I’d take a scientific approach to reclaiming a weight I could live with–220 pounds, which is what my doctors said would be good for me. I’ve decided to agree with them.
On August 1, I started by cutting out all artificial sweeteners. I’m a Splenda user, but I’ve also seen the research that shows that using artificial sweeteners may actually cause one to gain weight. The only place I use Splenda is in my iced tea, so that led me to the next thing I cut out: caffeine.
I also decided to cut out caffeinated drinks, which for me means no more iced black tea. I decided to do this to see how it affects my ability to sleep at night, which is something else I have been trying to work on all summer–getting adequate sleep. I’ve been mostly successful in that endeavor, averaging around 7 hours of sleep a night, which is far more than my school year average of about 5 hours per night. I’m going to try and keep this up throughout the school year.
I bought a uBiome gut kit so that I could take a survey of the microbes in my intestinal tract. There is an increasing body of research about the influence of the microbiome on overall health, so I decided I’d take a peek at what’s growing in there so I could see what influence my cutting out artificial sweeteners and white starches would have on my gut microbiota.
I decided to start tracking again using MyFitnessPal. As much as I hate looking at it, it’s helping me to keep my carb levels below 50 g a day.
Finally, I decided to go on a low-carb, high-fat, whole foods diet. This is what I’ve been successful with before, and is something that I can learn to live with in the long term. It’s what’s sustainable for me and my biology. Protein shakes contain all manner of artificial sweeteners, taste terrible, and make me hungry because I don’t get any sense of satiety. So that eliminates me using them as a weight loss tool. All that, and I just plain love chewing my food.
Treating this version of weight loss as an experiment and looking at it through the lens of the scientist that I am has helped me to avoid falling prey to cravings for the tacos, ice cream and iced tea that I’ve wanted so much this week. I figure if I reintroduce those things, I’ve just ruined whatever data set I’m in the midst of collecting, so it’s best not to introduce them at all if I want to have a good data set.
When they tell you that bariatric surgery is a tool, it is precisely that, a TOOL. It is a tool that you must skillfully manipulate every single day, without much wiggle room. I have learned that while yes, moderation in all things can be part of a healthy lifestyle, moderation does not work for me. For me, moderation in eating is the equivalent of giving an inch and taking a mile. I have taken far too many miles, and I’ve arrived at this body. This makes me sad, because I’d hoped that I could do maintenance. The past 18 months proves that I can’t, no matter how hard I try. Like I said, I know how to lose weight and I know how to gain it. I have to learn how to balance the two behaviors out.
For my 40th birthday, I gave myself the gift of getting the body I deserve to live with the rest of my days, and I’ve abused it. Now I’ve got the body that gave me diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which I’ve avoided again so far, but not if I continue on in this body. I had a checkup earlier this week that showed key health markers were out of whack compared to this time last year, so I’ll be back at my PCP’s office in February/March to see how my experiment has changed these indicators.
I figure that I ate myself into this body, I will eat myself out of it. Or at least back to where I was 18 months ago. At least back to 220 pounds. That’s a body I can live with and try to maintain.
I just want to feel good again. I want to feel good about how I look, and I want to be proud of myself again.