The Never-Ending Weight Loss Journey

This past week a few articles about the effects of metabolism can have on those who have lost weight years after their initial weight loss. While this article focused on former The Biggest Loser winners and competitors, it made a lot of sense to me. Since I lost weight four years ago, I have slowly put on weight. A lot of what I have been struggling suddenly made sense to me.

Essentially, the body is fighting to return to my previous state. While I can do my darndest to remain at that initial weight, my body it seems has other ideas. It was so used to the amount of calories and lack of exercise that it adapted to burn off these calories. Once I began to eat more mind fully and exercise, my body did not know how to process this, and so the pounds fell off. But once things settled down for with my weight and eating habits, it then began to recover. However what it was recovering was my old metabolism, having not adapted to my new lifestyle. After all I was now smaller so there-fore my metabolism slowed down.

The reality of maintaining weight loss years later is that it takes more effort than initial weight loss. Often times it means having to always to vigilant about the food I eat. Making sure I exercise at least six days a week in order to burn off those calories. And that is just not feasible for me right now. For one thing, constantly keeping track of my calories can be exhausting and stressful. It became all I thought about it. Tracking my intake with MyFitness Pal ( which is a great app by the way and very helpful!), adding and subtracting based on the amount of exercise I did that day.

I also do not have the ample amount of time to workout as I did a few years ago. There are days when I can squeeze in a quick workout. Honestly there are days where I just really do not care what I am eating, I just want it so I will eat it. The thing to remember is weight loss is unique for each person. Some go into this journey believing that by losing weight their entire life will change. Perhaps it will and perhaps only aspects will. This in itself can lead to disappoint and therefore a why bother attitude on continuing on.

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The reality is that weight loss is a never-ending journey, one that has its highs, lows and valleysThere are times when it is easier to say no to bad habits and other times when it is harder. So many factors go into getting healthy that it can be overwhelming. These studies will continue to come out, often saying the opposite of a previous study. Along with these studies will be those opinions to follow. The only ones that matter for yourself are your doctor’s and yours.

I know better today what I want for my goals, putting into practice the tools I already know to lose weight. But also not wanting to get down to a designated number. I know what works best for my frame and sanity. That being a certain number on the scale does not necessarily equal good health. Because if mentally you are constantly worried about how much you exercise and eat then it will only lead to exhaustion and burn out. Overall health is more important than maintaining an impossible weight.

Take your time in reading these kinds of articles and studies, resist jumping to some for gone conclusion. Examine what is working for you and what isn’t. Confer with your doctor and restructure your plan if need be. Keep going, keep running or dancing. Keep cooking and eating well and try not to be too hard on yourself when those days are not the greatest.

After all  starting this journey to health is about getting to enjoy this life more so than before. Remember that.

What has been your struggle with maintaining weight loss? Do you perceive the struggle is more physical or mental?

 

Washington Post article

New York Times article

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nutritionist or clinician. I am a woman who lost weight a few years ago through healthy eating and exercising.

 

Failure

This year marks four years since I lost weight. My body changed so quickly as I lost weight. So much so that it took the rest of me to catch up. When my body began to change once again, it was slower. Noticing only when I needed to go up in sizes in my clothes. Still, as slow as it was, this too has taken me to time to come to terms with.

My lifestyle is different, the amount of time I dedicated to working out is far less. Back then I was doing two work outs nearly six days a week. These days I do about thirty minutes four to five days per week.

The kinds of food I eat then and now are similar. However, these days I am more apt to go through a drive through. Dig into several helpings of ice cream. That tomorrow I will do better or I worked out so it’s alright.

But it’s not. Not because I’m no longer skinny but because I’m setting myself up for failure with each choice. My family has a host of health issues. Many of which can be avoided with good health.

Part of it is being busy. Another part is just wanting to have to not be so careful. Having to count every calorie that I eat. After I initially lost weight, I traded in binge eating for calorie counting. No middle ground from one to the other. In some sense I feared what would happen if I would gain weight.

But I have gained weight.I am a failure. I’ve failed, again and again I have made the bad choice. The lazy choice. 

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But not the easy choice,it’s never the easy choice. It’s sometimes the convenient one. Or falling back into old coping mechanisms.

But I keep going. I keep trying because I understand the greater reward. Failure happens but it doesn’t mean I need to stay there. 

 

 

 

Gaining Weight, Gaining Perspective

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The reality of weight loss is that the work never stops. It can be exhausting, constantly feeling the pressure get that work out in or make that right choice with food. This has been my struggle this year. Not wanting to do what I need to do. I just did not want to have to do anything at all.

Not watch my calories
Not work out as hard as I should.

And I have paid the price for these choices. I have gained weight. I began to feel as if I had no energy again, that no matter how much I slept, I would still feel as if I needed more.

I knew I lacked motivation and though I tried, I did not have it. Knowing what it took for me to lose weight the first time made me hesitate now. There was no way I could replicate that experience.

Nor should I . Because I am older, closer to forty than before. My body is not shy about telling me that. The truth is with my body, I need to workout. I need to eat well. Otherwise, what happens is I gain. My body needs it. My emotional health needs it. My spiritual health needs it.

Because all this is connected. One either helps the other or ends up hindering it.

I need to meet myself where I am right now, not where I was three years ago. In doing so I honor all the hard work I have put in over the years. I honor who I am, my overall health and perhaps too my sanity.

I think better when I eat better and exercise. My stress level goes down. I sleep better. I simply am better.

As my friend advised me at the start of my journey that once I started this, I was on it for life. And so I continue onward.

My goals this time? Run two 5k ‘s .
I am signed up for a fun run called the Bubble Run this month and another one in November. I want to complete a 10k by next January.

Food wise, cut out more sugar from my diet. I have stopped using flavored creamer for my coffee, cut down on my deserts per week.

Five Truths After Weight Loss

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Three years ago I began my journey to getting healthy. Last week I focused on Five Truths About Weight Loss, today I want to talk about maintaining that weight loss.

1- Reaching your goal can sneak up on you.
During your weight loss journey, you may be so into it that you may miss it. I nearly did. Reaching this goal seemed near impossible at the start didn’t it? But you did it! Embrace this moment, you have worked hard for it.

2- You may be at a loss at what to do now.
No longer is the goal to lose weight but to maintain. This means changing your mind set towards work outs and food. I needed a new goal to motivate me so I decided to train for a half marathon. This gave me a new reason to keep going. Find what your goal is, master a new skill.  Whatever you do, keep moving forward!

3- Your diet becomes more flexible
Those foods you have stayed away from can now, slowly reenter your diet. Be cautious but also enjoy yourself. I have overcome a lot of issues related to eating (you can read that post here). If you have had issues please seek professional help. Having a healthy attitude towards food is vastly important.

4- It will take time to adjust to your new body.
This was the most surprising part of this journey for myself. It has only been recently that I became comfortable in my body. I often felt like I was wondering around in someone else’s body, that it truly didn’t belong to me. It is a big change and plus your body continues to change as you gain muscle. Not to mention as it also adjusts to the new you. And this is also the time to replenish that wardrobe! Purchasing clothes that fit you properly will help with adjusting as well. You can read about that here

5- Have Grace for yourself.
You will gain weight and lose weight. Your eating may not always be as healthy as it could be,or your workouts as intense. Or you may stop working out altogether. When this happens, as it did with me take an honest inventory. Ask yourself what you may be missing this time around. For me it was determination and confidence that I can do this. Remind yourself what your body can do and do it. Meet yourself now, at this moment. Then move forward. Ask for accountability, keep track of your food and find a work out that will push you.

What have you noticed about life after weight loss that I didn’t list?

Mid Week Motivator: The Comparison Game

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It is too easy to get caught up in playing this game. A game that leads no where but envy or discouragement. Especially when it comes to comparing yourself to the version of you from a few years ago.

Something that I have found myself doing of late. I am not the same person I was when I began my journey. Firstly, I am older. My body reacts differently than it did then. I need to take this into consideration when I become frustrated about my body.

My life is different from three years ago. When I first lost weight it was pretty much my entire life. All of physical and mental energy went into it.
Accept where you are, right now. Let go of where you once were. Take heart in the knowledge of what your body can do. Meet yourself now, not in the past.

Then go out and kick some butt.

Three Year Check In

It has been three years since I began this health journey. Three years and counting actually. Losing weight is not an easy task and so much of it is mental. It forced me to face things about myself, confronting my quit early attitude. I have learned what this body is capable of doing in the course of this journey. I ran and finished my first half marathon last year.

I have learned what my limits are in regards to food. In how to eat well for this body. Learning how to love my body and in due course myself. I have learned to give myself grace and forgiveness when I stray from all that I have learned. When I prefer to walk instead of run.

I have learned to eat well despite my financial restrictions. That it is indeed possible to eat a healthy diet. It is all about making the best choices and at times avoiding certain aisles altogether.

Three years is a long time to maintain weight. But I have gained. First I gained muscle as the initial weight loss. Then, as time went on and my work out routine became less intense at the height of my weightloss. I gained and my body continued to change. I am older than I was when I began this journey and  that plays into this as well. Again I have learned to have grace towards myself in this way.

I also have to remind myself I am not that girl I let go of three years ago. I am a different person. I seek that urgency I once had and slowly find that I am regaining it. I have let go of the notion that losing weight equals a reward in the form of a relationship. I have grown so much in these three years.

To think it all began by simply showing up at a park, unsure of what to expect.

Learning How To Eat For My New Body

Disclaimer- I am not a dietician, doctor or therapist. This is my personal story

Note: This is a repost, it has been edited and updated. It has been two years since I began my journey to health. I have maintained my weight, eating habits and exercise routine.

The other part to getting healthy is diet. Which means food. Because this aspect of the whole thing is far more complex I am going to divide it up into two parts. The first part will be how I ate while I was losing weight and how I eat today. In part two I will touch on the more mental aspect of my relationship with food.

Food is necessary. That goes without saying. We need it to live. It gives us the energy we need to live our lives. Much of it tastes good, in fact too good. I love sugar. I love eating. Which was the problem. I needed an attitude adjustment, to understand that food has a purpose besides pleasure. 

This is another area where I thought I would need money. Again I was proved wrong. While it can sometimes cost more to buy healthier food, it is possible on a limited budget. I did not follow any commercial diet plan. What follows is the diet that worked for me.

First, I utilized a free app to help me keep track of my calorie intake, My Fitness Pal. This was so helpful in staying within my calorie goals. It also helps to calculate how much you burn off with your exercise program. I learned a lot about portion sizes and how much I should actually be eating. This was huge for me. How many times had I gulped down a bottle of soda with out realizing that it was meant for two people and not one?! Too many to count.

I stopped eating after 7pm ( when I could help it). This allowed food to digest properly before I would go to sleep. Also I was just a little bit hungry. Not because I was starving myself. I was learning how to eat for the body I wanted. Learning what was in front of me was enough.

Drastically eliminating the amount of sugar in diet helped tremendously. The only sugar in my diet was from fruits and vegetables I ate. Do not ask me how I did not eat desert. This alone was a miracle and I am not exaggerating on this. There were some nights I would sit there craving something and chewing ice with gum really helped me get through those times. When watermelon season came around, I chopped a whole watermelon and put it in the freezer (seriously, it becomes like an Italian ice!). I used to obsess about desert, having something ( usually chocolate) in the house.  Over time I have reintroduced other goodies such as frozen yogurt or cookies. I try not to have both in the house at the same time. This is something that helps me to stay on track.

This way of eating is a permanent change and not temporary. I needed to let go of bad habits
( more on that in the next post) to do this.

While I was losing weight, I was taking in 1500 calories a day and with my workouts burning much of that off. Just as with the workouts, I surprised myself by not giving in to temptation. It was not until my birthday in March that anything sweet touched my lips. Let me tell you, when I was eating my birthday cake I was in ecstasy in devouring the icing! But it was enough. I did not take the cake home with me as I usually would. I did not go out trolling for a sugar fix. This was truly from God.

The only thing I was drinking during this time was water and lots of it. I became obsessed with staying hydrated. It still is the only thing I tend to drink during the day, except for my daily cup of coffee. I may not add sugar to my coffee but that I could not cut out. I also discovered lemon flavored Vitamin Water, which I would also freeze and drink as a treat. I like cold, sweet things, can you tell?

Breakfast is usually oatmeal and over time I added things to it like a sliced banana, almonds or dried fruit. While I was in the midst of the weight loss I would have a mid morning snack. I tended to want to eat more in morning since my workouts would be later in the day. Lunch always included a yogurt or a salad or a half a sandwich. Something full of vitamins that would give me plenty of energy.

Dinner was a smaller, smarter portion of what my sister had cooked. I used smaller plates, carefully measuring out my portion. The benefit of working out so late and then eating is burning up all those calories.

It helped me to eat the same things day in and out. To not have those foods that I would be tempted to eat. It was over a year before I ever set foot down the cake mix aisle in the grocery store. Even looking at a package of low-fat cookies is a danger zone for me.

Cleaning out the cupboards and fridge of anything that can derail any attempt is key. This can be hard because so much of what we buy is stuff we enjoy and have spent a lot of money on it. I  also don’t have a husband or children to think of either, so that made it easier for me too.

It means saying no to food offered during social and work situations. This is why planning ahead is so important. The times I did not  plan well lead to not so great decisions. Another benefit to planning ahead is saving money. Carrying around a healthy alternative for that afternoon snack or bringing lunch to work.

The best part about pulling back so much from sugar? It was learning how wonderful so many things taste. I never realized how sweet carrots were and this has become my favorite thing to eat. The day I added peanut butter to my diet was such a happy day! I indulge in sweets but I’m careful to not keep it in my house. I just know I can not have it too accessible. More on this in the next post.

I understand better how to eat and that food is not just a source of pleasure but fuel. For those times that I plan to indulge, I work out harder.

It helped too that those around me were conscience of my new food choices and encouraging in their own ways. Again, you can not do this alone and having some one alongside you or cheering you on is so helpful!

What changes have you made to get away from bad unhealthy habits? Disclaimer I am not a dietician, doctor or therapist- this is my personal story.

A Walk in The Park

This is a repost from my Blogger account. I’m not a doctor, therapist or dietician. this is  my journey on less weight loss and maintenance

As I wrote about in my previous post, Jackson*( no he is not a certifed trainer, just someone who knows a lot about fitness). and I agreed to meet Monday through Friday at a park near his house for one hour. I was nervous the first as I did not know what to expect and thinking back on it now, I don’t think he did either. The most exercise I had been doing of late was ten to fifteen minutes of dancing around my room. I had managed to find an old pair of shorts and dusted off my sneakers. The sun was bright and I could smell the layers of sunscreen I had slathered on just minutes beforehand. Nervously I crunched the water bottle in my hand as I waited for him to come. I was early, I’m always early, especially when I am nervous or trying something new.

That first day was not bad, seeing we were still figuring out how this would work. Jackson* needed to see where I was at. He handed be one pound weights to hold and off we went around the park. Side Note: He asked me to buy three pound weights at one point and I thought I had since the box said 3 pounds only to discover they were 1.5 wrist weights equaling three pounds. This was something that greatly amused him and myself! The weights were to help with resistance and I used them up until 3 pounds. They were helpful for me but decide for yourself in using them during your runs or walks. His pace was faster than mine and more than once I had to jog a few steps to keep up. At one point he asked if I was walking slowly on purpose. I managed to say no while panting for breath. He grinned and then walked faster.It amused him to make me run. To my surprise (and his too I’m sure) , I showed up enthusiastically the next day. Then I kept showing up and the poor guy was stuck with me five afternoons a week!

The kind of exercises we did were not fancy or complicated. They were simple things I had learned long ago in PE and had since forgotten. My body knew what to do, often the harder part was in deciding I was going to do them. I learned I had to decided what it was I wanted to do each day before I got to the park. Getting past those mental barriers of “I can’t ” and changing them into “I can.” As I grew in confidence in what I could accomplish this became less so but let me tell you, sometimes there is a fierce battle going on in my brain. The angel and the devil on each side, one wanting to quit. The other side not wanting to quit. Also I had to learn to ignore the other people in the park and focus. Face it, so many exercises are just plain silly looking while doing the body good. You know what else, people are so into their own little worlds that really most of them are not even looking or caring about you over there doing squats.

Our routine evolved over the next few months.What follows is what we ended up doing for the most part. We began with a few laps around the park, in the beginning lots of fast paced walking with spurts of running and or jogging.
( We ended up modifying as I developed issues with my right knee not too long after starting by adding military lifts or punches to help get my heart rate up). Along certain points we would stop and do different kinds of exercise, push ups on the back of a bench, assisted squats, sit ups and bicycles. Some I preferred over others, assisted squats and later regular squats were my least favorite to do. So of course he made me do more of those
( especially since I would try to half- ass them).

It was better for me to not keep track of time. Not knowing how much longer I had out there helped me to work harder. It was better for me to be ignorant of time because otherwise that would of been my focus instead of the workout.

Soon we were running and or jogging more than walking. Then back to walking. Then back to jogging and so on it went. He knew how to push me, usually with cajoling and other times with simply stating this is what we are going to do. For the most part I was willing and I did have my moments of rebelliousness as he called them.

One day he asked if I was breathing. There was complete lack of air in my lungs, so of course I nodded yes. Then he taught me how to breath in a rhythm with my steps. This was a revelation for me. I tried to recall if any of my PE Teachers ever taught us to breath. Perhaps I had been daydreaming ( as I still often do) but I could not. Not long after,with his coaxing I finally ran one lap around the park without stopping. I still cherish that moment. That’s when I knew I could do more. More importantly wanted to do more.

He loaned me a stationary bike for me to use at night and on weekends. I was doing two a days for a while, days at the park, evenings and weekends on the bike. This was my life for a few months, it was my main focus. I was determined. Some would say that was too much. Some would of quit once their knee began to kill them as mine did. Once the weight began to drop off and I became stronger, the pain in my knee subsided.

After a few months, Jackson* was there less and less until I was on my own. In fact he had started to help another friend and he started working with the both of us, poor guy was exhausted! I showed up in the beginning because I knew he would be showing up. It was not long until I was showing up for myself. I had succeeded in my first goal, I could get up a flight of stairs without losing my breath. Then my goal became to run more laps around the park ( about less than half a mile around). Then I decided I wanted to run a half marathon.
We had begun meeting in January, by summer I had met my weight goal and began to train. Something I have done unofficially, clocking in at just under two hours at the same park where it all began. I hope to enter a race officially by the end of this year.

Update: I later discovered my measurement of the park was incorrect, so this first half was closer to a 12k. I ran my official half in February of this year clocking in at 3 hours 22 min. You can read about it here http://lindaconnelly.WordPress./and-let-us-run-with-perseverance

I outgrew that park and began to seek out new parks. I go back every now and again just as a tune up. Jackson* gave me the tools and push I needed. I learned so much from him about exercise and persistence. He taught me that you do not need to join a gym to get healthy and to have confidence in myself. Lessons that I have applied to other aspects in my life. I still workout in a park, because that is where I like to go and seriously how can free be beat?! I am forever thankful for God placing Jackson* in my life.

As a side note, let me add this about many of my encouragers along the way. Many of whom came from the park I went to everyday. This park is located in not the greatest of neighborhoods and these people who could have been mean or harsh with me were not. They cheered me on, a few of them approaching me to help them too. So many friends and members of my family were there for me in big ways and small. All of it helped me. Support is key, there is no way to do this on your own.

I want to hear from you out there, any questions or stories of your own?

*Name has been changed per request

Disclaimer- I am not a therapist, dietitian or personal trainer- this is my personal experience

The Exercises-

Please check with your doctor and take into account any old injuries you may have before pursuing any exercise plan.

Last Year

Nothing fancy, just a lot stuff to build up muscle and stamina.

Properly stretch out, warm up and drink plenty of water.

You must walk before you run, this is not a stroll, you want to get your heart rate

For a time I was not able to run due to my knee, I learned how to do punches instead. There are other ways to get your heart rate up

Push ups, first on the back of a park bench and later on the ground. Then Squats, then back to push ups. Doing three sets of each.

Then at the next spot stopping to do sit ups (50 or more) then bicycles or scissors ( doing reps of 40) then another set of sit ups and another set of either bicycles or scissors

The park is about half mile around, two and a quarter laps is a mile. I started with 4 laps  and soon was running 10 laps a day.

Stationary bike- Depending on how I felt the day’s workout went I would do from thirty min to an hour at a good pace and playing with the resistance.

I would also do another set of sit ups and push ups

As time went on I learned how to play more with what I wanted to do or accomplish that day.

Today

I have cut back my running to three or four times a week ( running from 3 to 5 miles) and I take a day to rest

Earlier this year I started P90x and have incorporated a lot of that into my workouts in the park too.

Find something you enjoy or can do with others. Most of all try to have fun!

Update: I have gotten into yoga in the last year and find it challenging and fun! Since the marathon this year I have not run as much distance, opting for sprints and working on my speed and strengthening exercises.  but I still get out there, five to six days a week.