Big Girls Cry

Well, it’s happened again. This morning a kind, caring person approached me in a kind, caring way and my eyes welled with tears. I can’t remember at what age I started to be embarrassed by my propensity to cry, but I do remember thinking something like, “Someday I’ll outgrow this. This is not something grownups do.” Wrong!

Fittingly, it was the yoga instructor who taught the class I alluded to in my last post. Several weeks ago I got up in the middle of that class and left, wrists aching, frustrated by my alien body. (Not for the first time, either. Before that it had something to do with weak triceps, chaturongas, and a shirt that no longer fit. Good lord.)

Before I knew it, I was telling her something that I have begun to realize as the weight of the past year is starting to lift: THAT YEAR WAS HARD, MAN. Really hard!

Here’s where having a blog gets tricky. I’m sharing this publically, but the details of what made everything so awful involve my kids. If it was just me, I probably wouldn’t care, but I’m pretty sure they would mind my telling the whole world. It was hardest on them, but in a different way.

Some of the consequences of “the situation” were that I suddenly had next to no time to myself, and that I was the main source of stability for my family. When you’re a caregiver, you’re supposed to do all this self-care to make sure you don’t fall apart. Which any caregiver can tell you is almost a cruel joke, even if it’s true. For me, self-care boiled down to this: If it adds difficulty, don’t do it. If it adds comfort, do it.

I was (and am) incredibly fortunate to have a person in my life who added a lot of comfort and who was not difficult. So I have that going for me. Plus he genuinely loves me no matter what my measurements or how many chaturongas I can do. But getting to the gym, balancing proteins and fibers and so on, was not only difficult, it was often actually impossible. Whereas things like eating donuts, drinking beer with a sweet man, and sleeping in on a weekend morning with him instead of getting up for an early run were easy and comforting as hell. And worth it.

This is all to say, I forgive myself for getting here. I congratulate myself for getting here, actually. And I know that it’s not over. I haven’t arrived at a finish line, things will change, and maybe this little reprieve I’m feeling will change yet again. Yoga Lady told me some of her own story, also heartbreaking. We are not alone. And if you meet someone who can’t help but judge you, just remember that they are probably living in a hell of self-judgement.

And with that, I think I’ll try that yoga class again.

EmilyMcDowell
Card by truth-teller Emily McDowell which you can get here

The “real me” is doing yoga somewhere, feeling inner peace. Not her Buddha belly.

I noticed that a coworker’s face looked a little thinner, and I asked her if she’d lost some weight. She said yes and then spent the next fifteen minutes berating herself for having gained back what she’d lost before.

I get it. We don’t want to identify with the version of ourselves that seems out of control or weak. That certainly true for me. This is how I feel when I allow myself to look at my body now, which my prefrontal cortex recognizes as an unhelpful attitude. But my prefrontal cortex is really bad at managing stress and seeking pleasure, so it hasn’t offered a lot of solutions.

I’m pleased that this week has been not that bad. I had a wicked headache for a few days that medicine didn’t seem to touch. That has subsided today, and instead I had a floaty, somewhat dizzy feeling that I guessed had something to do with not eating sugar? My brain isn’t starving for carbs, because I’m eating plenty of that in the form of fruit and vegetables.  So far today I’ve had a banana, a protein shake, a whole bunch of cottage cheese, a cup of berries, an almond butter packet, a big portion of salmon, and salad.

I did a little workout at the gym with one of their videos. I admit that I like it better (for now) than working out with other people, which is strange because working out with other people used to be my thing. This way feels much more controllable, like I won’t be tempted to walk out of the workout as I often feel when it’s just way over my head, as with yoga. Yoga is for people who are already lithe and willowy. If you are not already lithe and willowy, yoga is essentially getting a face full of your own boobs as you embrace your inner Yogini in the downward dog position, and aching wrists. And on that note, I will leave you with this little greeting card by these people, which I bought in bulk today.

 

Metabolic Efficiency, or “How to Lose Fat and Not Poop Your Pants”

It’s funny how one thing can lead to another. A friend recently tagged me in a picture on Facebook, which I read while sitting on the toilet, howling with laughter, like any self-respecting adult.

running mistakes
If you don’t know why I was tagged in this image, then you’ve never run with me.

This was on a Trail Running page, along with a link to their magazine, which led me to click on this article by Heidi Strickler: Burning Fat as Fuel Part II – Optimizing your Metabolism in 4 Steps.  It appeals to my short attention span and my desire not to measure and record each bite, which has a high likelihood of never working for me. Reading it solidified a few thoughts for me:

  1. Yes, I want to lose weight for a variety of reasons, but really I just want to lose fat.
  2. Running while fat is hard, and training for a running event while restricting calories is very hard. Exercise is IN during fat loss, but training is OUT.
  3. I hate being hungry, I hate counting calories, and I love sugar, grains, alcohol, and alcohol made from grains. I eat because I’m hungry but I also eat for other reasons (derrr). All of that + sitting at a desk and in my car all the time = weight gain.
  4. I don’t need my solution to be easy, but I do need it to be simple.
  5. As discussed in the previous post, eating that is also suffering is BS.

If you’re interested, you should read the article, but here’s a rough summary: Eat in a way that controls your blood sugar and satisfies you for 3-4 hours at a time, by focusing on lean proteins, healthy fats, and fiber-rich foods that are not grains, and control your portions.

Because your blood sugar is even, restricting calories is not torture. The restriction comes from two things: eating your meals within a 10-hour window (again, every 3-4 hours) and controlling your portions. You want a portion the size of your hand of protein, and a portion the size of your hand of fiber foods. If it’s a snack, you do a palm-sized protein plus a palm-sized fiber.

All of this comes from sports nutritionist Bob Seebohar, who actually came up with this dietary concept that he calls “metabolic efficiency” for a surprising reason. It wasn’t because he needed to lose weight. It was because he likes to train for and race in Ironman triathlons, but would prefer not to shit his pants. In case you don’t know, endurance training (especially running) and diarrhea are besties; you rarely see one without the other. He figured out that he needed to train his body to use fat stores more, so that he would require fewer gastrointestinally upsetting carbs during these endurance events.

WHAT??? Is this true? Could I actually train my body to not do that on my long runs? This is more than I expected. This makes my period of fat loss not just a waiting period before I start to train again, but a bigger part of my long term running hopes. Actually, a new part, since I had accepted that I would always be the Woman Behind the Bushes. This is exciting!

I’m on Day Three now. So far so good. I put my bathroom scale in the closet but I’ll revisit it on May 11. Mainly what I’m looking for are decreased cravings for sugar, and a mini-goal of sticking to something for one month. Ok, and some pounds gone, I won’t lie.

Correction: Frozen dinners taste like loneliness and despair

I don’t know how I ate so many frozen dinners in my past life, but unless you’re going to spend $5 on one, don’t bother. (And if you do, it’ll probably be okay but not for your whole life.) The person who lost weight on frozen dinners was 30s me, when I was younger and half-full of patience for bullshit, though that seems to have been a non-renewable resource that I exhausted. Enter middle-aged me, with my ever-growing pile of Fuck That Shit.

So, okay, that didn’t work. I was hungry a lot and not at all satisfied by the food I was eating. Maybe I should re-name this blog Goldilocks and the Three Hundred Diets. Will I ever find an approach to food that is Just Right for me?

Last night I chopped and grilled or roasted a lot of veggies. They ended up tasting like veggie-candy. I also grilled chicken breasts. It’s worth it to read up on how to do this properly, which I finally did and the results were amazing. It involves flattening them and soaking them in a salt-and-sugar solution for half an hour first. Sorry, chickens, I KNOW it’s gross to eat you. Really gross. But I’m going to do it for a while. Sorrysorrysorry. You are delicious. Sorry.

I put my scale in the closet this morning. I just can’t look at it every time I enter my bathroom. I successfully uploaded a channel on my Roku TV called “Daily Burn” this morning. I’ll let you know how the workouts go.

What works for YOU?

When you do Weight Watchers, they ask you to remember a time when you succeeded at something–not necessarily weight loss. It’s to help you remember that you HAVE succeeded at things and you CAN do this, too.

The nice thing about diet and fitness is that it’s easier measure success than in most other aspects of our lives. Did your cholesterol go down, or up? Did the scale go down, or up? Did your ability to get up the stairs without getting winded (or whatever your measure may be) increase, or decrease? Other areas of my life are much more subjective, although I still reserve the right to claim success if, at the end of the day, my kids are fed and were not running naked in the street at any point.

So I’m sticking with remembering a weight loss success. When my youngest was a toddler, I started trying to lose some weight. I was a few pounds shy of the weight I am now. There was a week, maybe 10 days, when I did the Beach Body diet and discovered what a diet-induced headache felt like. There were a couple weeks of Jenny Craig, which was fine but felt a lot like buying a freezer full of expensive diet entrees and supplementing them with yogurt and fruit. At some point I remember sitting in my liberal hippy church that I went to because it let me not be a mom for an hour, my stomach gnawing away at itself, thinking “This will work. This has to work.” (My eyes firmly on heaven, clearly.)

Everything I tried knocked off a few pounds here and there, which, fortunately, stayed off for the most part. Starting Jazzercise brought the biggest changes. It was fun and supportive and I went almost every day. As I recall, the pounds didn’t exactly melt away, but my body felt fantastic. The fitness led to me starting to run a bit. I entered a five mile race and when I finished, I emailed anyone I knew who had an email address (this was before social media) and told them I JUST RAN FIVE MILES. Being last in a race is way more fun than being next-to-last: I finished to a dozen or so strangers wildly cheering me on. They were real runners and probably thought I was disabled.

Then I moved to Colorado. I was 20 pounds lighter than after I had my baby, but I quickly began softening and widening with my new desk job. I put back five or ten pounds and discovered back pain. With Weight Watchers, I knocked off ten pounds or so, and then began running and, more importantly, taking classes at the gym most days. It took a couple years, but I ended up at a comfortable 165 pounds for a very long time.

For a glorious, unhappy instant, my weight dipped below 150 when my marriage began circling the drain for real. Running felt amazing at that weight, and I did a *lot* of it. Everything else in my life felt horrible and I never want to be there again.

So, what part of that do I want to repeat? Not much, actually; that person is no longer me. But, there is one little memory that keeps tugging at me: there were months, maybe even years, when my meals resembled those Jenny Craig frozen deals. Prepackaged, frozen, and supplemented with fresh food. It feels like a complete cop-out. How will you ever learn to properly feed yourself that way?? Where are your whole foods, your cooking skills, your KALE for God’s sake? Where is your dignity?

Perfectionist Me may have a point, but that girl is getting us nowhere. So today I bought two weeks’ worth of frozen entrees for the freezer at work, all 350 calories or less, and some apples and baby carrots. Now I don’t have to think about what I want to eat; it’s just here already, along with my oatmeal, another staple Skinny Me used to live on.

I think every person has their own “weird trick” up their sleeve. 350 calorie meals used to be one of mine. Writing this, I realize that in the long run, I had another weird trick. I went off the dietary rails a lot, and it kept me from having one of those stories where the person loses 2 pounds a week steadily for six months and emerges a beautiful butterfly. I did eat crazily, and often, and my progress was more like a drunken squirrel. But I went back to a more disciplined eating style more often than not, and that led to a steady improvement in my health and fitness.

Do you remember something that worked and you liked it? How can you set up your environment to be similar? And if you don’t like any of your old stories, what story would you like to tell someday about the thing that worked?