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?

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