Thursday, June 17, 2004

Weight Loss

From my email archives:

I'm not sure my advice would be helpful for you. But here's what I did:

I started losing weight when I was still nursing Jesse. I wasn't extremely worried about milk supply since he was over two years old at the time. But I didn't want to wean him abruptly or have my milk supply vanish rapidly. I was also concerned about the quality of my milk, since Jesse's eating of solids was erratic; some days he seemed to eat almost nothing at all and I was convinced he was still getting a lot of his calories and nutrients from my milk.

Anyway, being kind of an obsessive, all or nothing sort of person, I completely revamped my lifestyle. What I ended up doing, after reading a lot and consulting with the personal trainer and nutritional consultant at the gym, was something similar to what I later discovered in the book "Body for Life". My workout was different at first, but the "diet" (which was a word I refused to use) was almost exactly the same. The whole idea is centered around portion size and a balance of complex carbs and proteins, low fat but not extremely so, with six small meals/snacks per day. I felt like I was eating MORE, just a lot less at each meal. I was never hungry, except when I first got up in the morning---when I was so ravenous that I joked that no one should get in my way while I rushed into the kitchen or I might eat them by mistake! (Before then, I usually felt so icky in the morning that I never wanted to eat until around 9:00 or 10:00 at the earliest, unless I was pregnant and had to eat.)

During the weight loss phase, I lost about a pound a week, sometimes a pound and a half. I lost a significant amount of inches, since I was building up muscles from the weight lifting. It was a pretty dramatic change, because I went down in clothing sizes rather rapidly. My energy level was much higher than it had been in years, if not my entire adult life.

Although I've never followed the "Body for Life" program exactly, it's probably one of the programs that makes the most sense to me in terms of health, weight loss, and fitness. But it does take time...and hard work...and access to weight lifting equipment and a means of intense cardiovascular exercise. Although the author is quick to push his own supplements and powdered shakes, they aren't at all necessary. I've been astonished at the results I've seen in people who've done the program for 12 weeks or less. The pictures printed in his books and mags aren't fake. I've met people at the gym who didn't even enter his transformation contest and whose results seemed almost incredible to me.

I know how dramatically my health (and my body) changed in just four weeks of my lifestyle change. But then I threw myself almost desperately into it---and I had the time to do it and a husband who could be home in the early mornings while I rushed off to the gym and left my kiddoes still asleep in their beds.

So I'm not sure how practical such a program would be for anyone who didn't have access to the same sort of support system. (My trainer was a woman my age who was in incredible shape and who convinced me that I could turn my life around, even though I was weak, out of shape, and had knees that screamed in pain if I tried to do almost anything physical. She was right!)

And now? I've discovered that getting in shape is the easy part, once I got started. Maintaining is the difficult part. Keeping up the "new lifestyle" takes a constant commitment. I no longer have the excitement of losing weight and getting compliments about how much better I look. It is no longer new and interesting and motivating. I wish I had more support from my husband. I really wish he would join me in my healthier lifestyle. In the meantime, he keeps gaining weight and has no desire to eat in a more healthy manner and has lost almost all interest in exercise. He seems to actually enjoy being overweight, despite once in a while making a vague complaint about wishing he hadn't outgrown certain items of clothing. So it gets hard to keep up the effort on my own, especially since I get lazy and self-indulgent at times.

But---I'm genetically at very high risk for diabetes and a host of other diseases that are obesity related or worsened by poor nutrition. And I try to motivate myself by putting my family first. Even if I feel like I don't care, don't I owe it to my family to stay as healthy as possible for their sake?

Sorry if I've turned this into a rant.

Since writing that, the pounds, alas, began to pile back on. I'd given myself a "weight range" and had purposed not to let my weight creep above or below either end of that range. But, alas, my relaxed eating habits made the weight creep up past my "range".

I tried to get back on the Body for Life program, with modifications. Due to an injured shoulder, I had to adapt the weight training. I added a lot more intensity to my aerobic workouts. I did circuit training. I kept more careful track of my eating and cut out the junk. The numbers on the scale wouldn't budge.

Perhaps I was in a rut. Perhpas I was blind to some poor eating habits. I don't know. I decided to try something different, and sent off for the Weight Watchers at Home materials. I've found them wonderfully motivating. Following the points system is much simpler than I'd feared, since they provide all sorts of wonderful tools to make it as easy as possible. The best thing is that my eyes have been opened to a lot of extra calories, especially empty ones, that have crept into my diet.

The scale has budged. I'm now back to the highest end of my range---better than being beyond the range! I've still got a few pounds to go for my clothes to fit as well as I'd like, but I'm excited about finally making some progress in the right direction.

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