Category Archives: Maintenance

A Maintenance Revelation

Late last week I finished writing my guest post for Katie over at Runs For Cookies.  It had been a very long time since I’d written something lengthy about my thoughts on maintenance for a new audience.   I debated on whether I should just concentrate on a specific topic for her readers, or touch on several things so they would get to know me a bit better.  I finally chose the latter, and I’m happy with the way it turned out, though I think some might find it a tad long for a blog post.  What can I say, I’ve got a lot to say on the subject!  Smile

There was something I noticed while writing that I had to stop and study for a moment before choosing to leave it in the post, and I have to tell you – what I wrote not only surprised the hell out of me, but the fact that I felt confident enough to leave it in has absolutely changed me. 

This is the final paragraph of my post.  It reads,

One final thought: you may have heard maintainers say that it’s harder to keep the weight off than it is to lose it. I completely agree with that statement. I used to be terrified that I was always one cookie away from gaining all 100+ pounds back. These days however it’s all about teaching myself to SIT. Stay In Today. The past doesn’t matter; it’s the present that counts. Today is all I have, and I do what I can – here in the moment – to continue improving my life. That’s all any of us can do, really.

 

…a little less emotional baggage these days, perhaps? 

 

Did you all catch the part that I ‘used to be terrified that I was always one cookie away from gaining all 100+ pounds back?’ As I finished writing those thoughts I sat with that sentence for a long while.  I kept wondering if I should find another phrase.  ‘Used to be…’ referred to a feeling I wasn’t currently experiencing.  Was it really possible that I was no longer as fearful of becoming ‘the old me’?  If this were true, I’d just stumbled across something I should have already recognized as a major shift in confidence.  Instead, it took Katie’s request and my willingness to revisit that part of my life to see that the fear I’d been carrying for the last 8 years has truly diminished – considerably so. 

I am still processing this whole thing, but I intend to explore it further and find out what brought about this change within me.  I have a couple of ideas that I’ll share when I completely understand them myself, but for now I just wanted to share these thoughts with you because they are new and exciting, and it feels as though a nearly decade long burden has been lifted from my shoulders.  For the first time since the inception of this blog, I do believe I’ve had a Maintenance break-through. 

…many thanks to Katie for helping me sift these thoughts to the surface, and to Roxie for introducing me to SIT – Staying in Today.  That tool has been invaluable to me.  Keeping myself in the moment, not worrying about the future or wallowing in the past is some good medicine if you’re up for it. 

Have a great Monday, everyone.  Please feel free to check out my post on Katie’s blog.  Ellen’s Guest Post on Runs For Cookies.

No Mercy for Maintainers

It was after 7:30 am and I was still waiting for the doctor to arrive.  My husband made a valiant attempt at keeping me calm but I knew the longer I waited, the more anxious I was going to get. 

The nurse poked her head into the door and before she could say anything I asked, ‘When is the doctor due to arrive?’ 

‘He won’t be here until 8, but there is a video we like to show new patients so I’m going to put that on for you to watch.  He should be here by the time you finish up.’ she said.  She hit the Play button and moments later my doctor appeared on the TV screen welcoming me to the hospital’s Pain Clinic.  He began discussing why chronic pain plays a part in a vicious cycle for patients. ‘When you’re in chronic pain,‘ said the doctor on TV, ‘it’s difficult to exercise.  When we don’t exercise, numerous things begin to happen – we grow weaker, and sometimes begin to gain weight.  Because of this, depression can set in, and…’  I could finish the rest of that sentence without the video’s help:  when you’re depressed, you have little motivation to do anything, including exercise because you’re in pain.  Throw in for good measure one’s tendency to binge eat when she’s under stress and you have a vicious cycle that can be debilitating if not tended to.

When I worked for my dear elderly friend Patty, I watched as pain slowly robbed her of any desire and subsequent ability to perform simple tasks without becoming short-winded and weak. Arthritis had taken over and she lost her will to exercise daily even though she knew if she didn’t make the effort to move regardless, her body would deteriorate which, unfortunately, is what happens to many people.  Sometimes the pain becomes such a major player in our lives, everything else seems futile.

 

This year will mark my 8th year of maintaining a 100+ pound weight loss.  I feel confident saying that the past 9 months have been the most challenging I have ever faced as a maintainer. Major surgery and a subsequent degenerative disc issue in my back have been actively threatening my livelihood. 

I have always relied on the act of movement to help keep my weight steady and my body strong, but as of late I’ve felt like a swimmer struggling against a very strong current, just barely able to keep her head above water.  What does one do when her Golden Key to Success is being threatened?  Does she sink, or does she swim?

Some things I’ve noted during this time of transition :

What works today may not work tomorrow.  To me this means I can’t always rely on exercising that extra length of time to compensate for that double-serving lemon square I chose to eat.  I am constantly re-evaluating what I can and cannot consume.  Despite my best effort I am not always going to be able to have my cake and eat it, too; bodies age; we suffer injuries.  Adjustments are necessary and crucial in maintenance. 

When I was heavy I often thought of my body as my enemy and I have recently noticed these feelings trying to resurface. As a result, I am constantly reminding myself to be flexible.  If I am in too much pain to do my regular exercise routine I do have other muscle groups that I can work on (hello, hand weights).

Having something else to focus on is extremely helpful.  I built my online business while recuperating from surgery last year.  I engrossed myself into my art and the therapeutic benefits I gained from making that decision has brought me so much satisfaction, I cannot begin to describe it.   A few weeks ago when I was getting very little relief in my back, I still managed to paint in short, mini bursts throughout the day as much as my body could tolerate.  When I called the painting finished, I stepped back and saw that I was probably doing some of the best work of my career:

…perhaps the most important thing of which I’ve noticed is how important it is to have a solid support system in place in the form of friends (online and off) and family – people whom I can turn to when I need to vent, want to eat, or have a hand to hold onto. 

 

It’s now Friday morning and I am attempting to type this while laying on my side in bed.  It’s been 2 days since my spinal injection and I continue to wait while the side effects of the shot dissipate so I can see whether or not it will provide the relief I desperately need.   I am getting ready to put away my computer and go to my closet where my workout clothes lay. I will do what I attempted to do without success yesterday: walk beyond half a mile.  Today, I will aim for a mile; tomorrow, I will attempt to go farther. 

I may not be moving on yet, but I’m moving, nonetheless.  Right now, that’s what’s important. 

Have a good weekend, everyone,

xo,

~Ellen

Today’s post brought to you by the letter M

Missing:

I’ve been scarce, lately.  No post since Monday, and I’ve not been reading any blogs, either.  In fact, I’ve barely been on the computer.  I haven’t exactly gone missing but it kind of feels like it.  So, here’s what’s going on….

MRI:

…as in, Monday I have an MRI scheduled for my lower back.  It’s getting increasingly worse. Acupuncture has not helped; in fact, it seems to make my back feel even more angry.  I’ve been rotating between walking and laying down.  I can’t sit for more than 5 minutes at a time (unless I’m pretty medicated) and standing still is impossible.  So, I’m either walking on the treadmill at a slow but steady pace or I’m on the floor doing yoga stretches.  This has made my time in the studio very challenging.  I can’t paint and walk at the same time so I’m doing very short but furious bursts in between.  Not an easy task.  Still, I did manage to finish this little guy:

I went to the doctor yesterday and there may be a change in my diagnosis of degenerative disc disease.  He used words like bulging and/or ruptured disc. I asked him point-blank whether the excess weight in my younger days could have contributed to my condition.  Of course he couldn’t answer this with complete certainty but he assured me that if I were still carrying around those extra 100+ pounds I could likely be completely immobile right now.  This brings me to something I cannot stress enough: don’t abuse your body.  Respect every aspect of it, because It has to serve you the rest of your life.

Minus the Mister:

Tomorrow, my husband and I were supposed to be heading to Arizona to visit his sister.  I had to make the difficult decision to give up my ticket.  Sitting that long is an impossibility for me.  This was not an easy choice, but it’s the only answer for me if I want to protect my back from further irritation.  Besides, couldn’t you just see me in Arizona and then have my back go out?  I mean yes, there are worse things than being stuck in Arizona but what a nightmare that would be!  After a long discussion, I convinced my husband to go without me.  At least one ticket will be used and honestly, he really needs to get to a warmer climate for a few days.  Working outside in this single digit weather can be unbelievably draining.  So, it looks like I’m going to be a bachelorette for a few days.

Maintenance:

As part of my decision to continue with my Gratitude Jar, it has become easier to find things to be grateful about even when I could feel sorry for myself for having another health crisis less than a year after major surgery.  Since walking eases my pain, it’s been a breeze maintaining my weight.  Chronic pain kind of takes away my appetite, anyway.   I can’t imagine what it would be like if I were completely unable to move.  I swear I’ll never again complain about my ‘dreadmill’.  It has literally saved my sanity.

All right folks, I’m outta here for now.  Be good to yourself this weekend and I’ll see you back here sometime next week. 

xo,

Ellen

The Girdle. Undergarment from Hell.

The dreaded girdle.  Oh, how I hate thee.

When it was time for my mom to show my eleven year old self what to do with those weird looking, foot-long, crazy-thick pads in the pink box under the bathroom sink, she also gave me a strict word of advice: You MUST wear a girdle with these in order to keep them in place.  We’ll go out and buy you one today so you can start wearing them right away.

Me?  A girdle?  What was I, eighty?  Well, you decide for yourself because this photo is almost identical to the actual one that my mother made me wear:

Chevron Panty Girdle

I hated the girdle – and I mean, hated it. Yes, even more than the 2 inch thick Kotex I had to wear; and I balked every time my mother made me wear it. After a year or so of constant complaint she finally gave up and said, ‘Fine, don’t wear one. But you’ll be sorry because you NEED them to help keep everything in place.  But if you want things hanging out all over then I guess there’s nothing I can do about it.’ Did I mention that my mother is famous?  You know her – everyone does.  She invented the Guilt Trip. 

Challenging as it was having a celebrity for a parent, I was able to free myself from the confines of girdle-hood for many, many years. And life was good.  

Fast forward um, about….three decades, and apparently I have crossed over into the Twilight Zone because I am eating those words.  I now completely understand how important it is to keep jiggly bits from flopping around.  For a while now I’ve been trying to find the perfect form-fitting undergarment. Gravity is having its way with me; things are starting to fall further and further towards the ground and I’m finding myself actually looking for a magical underwear to stop it. So far, I have been unsuccessful.

My mail carrier must be noticing it as well because for the first time ever, I recently received an unsolicited catalog in the mail by a company called Spanx, tucked in between an Omaha Steaks brochure and this week’s flyer for reasonably priced maid service.  (Seriously, how do they know that I’m having a hard time keeping my floors free from dirt?) 

I set down the mail and picked up the catalog. I was mesmerized.  The girdles of today look NOTHING like the girdles my mother used to make me wear.  There’s one that concentrates on lifting your butt; one to smooth your legs, and one for lifting your breasts.  There’s even a whole body girdle that promises to slim and smooth all my bumpy parts at once! 

I had to find these Spanx and try them on just to see if they worked.  I jumped in my car and drove straight to the mall.

Heading for the intimate section of a store I looked specifically for Spanx but couldn’t find that particular brand, however there were plenty of other brands that had very similar styles, and so I grabbed as many as I could carry and headed to the biggest dressing room I could find. 

First up:  the full body girdle sorry…. ‘body shaper’.  (I’m so stuck in 1981). 

Getting these things on is quite the challenge.  It took me over 5 minutes to yank and pull and I was darn near out of breath by the time I pulled it up over my shoulders. Looking at myself in the mirror I wondered, ‘how exactly is this supposed to make me look better?  I can still see every roll. The only difference is, now they’re all uniformly beige in color!’

Next, I tried on the ones that look like bike shorts, except these have butt lifts in the back (no joke!).  They did make my butt look perky, but when I went to move around a bit, the waist band began to roll down my stomach a bit.  Not good. 

Finally, I tried the thigh slimmer, butt booster, waist whittler all-in-one.  This one looks like the previous one, except there’s extra fabric that comes all the way up to the ribs.  I’m assuming it’s purpose is to help eliminate that rolling I was talking about.  Hmm.  So far, so good.  I went to sit down on the bench and see how comfortable it was.  As soon as I sat down, the fabric at the bottom of my thighs began rolling UP.  *Sigh*

Okay, ladies – time to help a gal out.  So many questions…..

First:  how many of you admit that you actually wear one of these contraptions, and more importantly, are they comfortable? 

Do they work?

How do you keep these things in place?  Have you ever tried on one that won’t stay put? 

…and most importantly:  how do you know what size to get?  I have tried on my size according to the charts and it was so tight, it felt like I was being prepped for a mummy display at the Museum of Natural History. 

…stopping now…..temples throbbing. 

Pour forth any words of wisdom for this almost 43 year old woman who clearly doesn’t know how to shop in today’s world.  I’m listening. 

Anxiety vs. Food

If you’ve ever watched The Biggest Loser, seen a weight-loss commercial or an interview of someone who’s lost a significant amount of weight, you’ve probably heard them say, I’m never going to be heavy again!  Personally, I’m too afraid to utter those words.  Rather than test fate, I know that I still have to take things one day at a time.   2012 has taught me many things – mainly, that nothing in life stays the same.  Never before have I been more aware of that than the past few months.

I spent the majority of this weekend working at Patty’s house, removing the last of her belongings and saying goodbye to the one remaining thing that linked me together with her – her home.  I’d been dreading Saturday and Sunday, becoming increasingly agitated as last week drew to a close, but attributed my emotions to a host of other, unimportant things.  With my anxiety building, I found myself wanting to reach for copious amounts of comfort food before the weekend even arrived. 

This time I tried to think ahead and made a plan to busy myself with painting instead of eating.  By the time Thursday arrived I was furiously working in my studio, finishing three watercolors before the day was over (quite a feat for me.)  All three paintings had themes that were specifically chosen to give a calming, zen-like feel.   Here are two of the three that I finished:

 

 

Thursday came and went and I climbed into bed exhausted.  I wish I could report that I didn’t give in to numbing my grief with food, but I’d be lying. 

On Friday, I woke up determined to not only begin, but complete a very tedious art project.  Working solely with cut paper and glue, I pushed myself for over 12 hours until I finished this: 

I regularly post photos of work in progress on my Facebook art page (which you are invited to ‘Like’ if you’re a Facebooker) and I love receiving comments and ideas from people.  On this particular project I had several comments from some very wise people who saw things that I didn’t.  Well, not until it was pointed out to me:  one – she’s a young Patty (who used to wear a red hat every time she went out) and two – she is me.  Two people combined to make a self portrait. 

Well now, that ought to make a good topic for a therapy session, no?

Again, when I was finished I’d hoped that the anxiety I was feeling would be gone and that I could wake up on Saturday and put myself into full work-mode.  The weekend came and went, leaving me feeling completely drained, both emotionally and physically.  I didn’t binge (I didn’t have time), but I did make extremely poor choices and ate without regard to any consequence. 

Today, I’m feeling disappointed in myself; I really wish I’d been able to channel my emotions strictly into my work – to completely lose myself in distraction.  After seven+ years in maintenance, you would think that I’d have worked out this part by now. 

If anything, this experience has shown me that I will most likely always be a work in progress.  Now that the crisis has passed all I can do is pick myself up and try again next time.  Until then I’ll just keep reminding myself that at least I haven’t thrown in the towel.  I’m still fighting to figure things out and hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to say that food and I have a very healthy relationship with one another.

Have a good week, everyone. 

XO,

~E

 

Filling In The Blanks

I received two copies of Woman’s Day Magazine in the mail on Tuesday.  Initially, my idea was to have my husband read the article first.  By reading his face I would know what to expect and be somewhat prepared.  Did that happen?  Nah.  I tore that envelope open before my foot crossed the threshold!   There in the Healthy You section of the magazine were the words: I Lost 105 Pounds!  I flipped to the article and read through it quickly.  Hmm.  No initial damage control needed.  Then I read through it again, more carefully.  I thought it was well-done.  Nothing like I had expected, but nonetheless, well done. 

It wasn’t an article really, but more like a timeline that showed how I started and where I finished, complete with little snippets of information along the way.   Short and sweet.  Very short, actually; but I realize that landing magazine space is kind of like the equivalent of landing a good apartment in New York: it may be short on square footage but you’re grateful for any room at all.  So, while I wish a bit more of my story had been shared, it’s really okay that it wasn’t.  Shh…. I happen to have this blog, see?  And there, I can fill in the blanks to my heart’s content. 

Many of you who’ve been reading me for the last couple of years have seen the photos depicting my loss, but were unaware of my full history.   So, for those both old and new – here’s a bit more of my story.

 

Even though I was of average size growing up, things began to change once I entered college.  I’d just moved away from home and had little experience in making new friends.  Art classes were very demanding.  Those pressures combined with depression made it incredibly difficult to adjust;  it was during that time when I started using food for comfort.  All of the stress, insecurity and depression I felt were often quieted with carry-out pizza and cartons of ice cream.  Art majors spent a great deal of time working on projects so it wasn’t uncommon for me to reach for food while working late into the night.  I gave little regard to what I was eating.  All I knew was that it provided me with the tools I needed to cope with my sadness, school, roommates and relationships. 

 
By the time I graduated I had a very solid, unhealthy relationship with food that continued to grow worse.  If I were depressed or lonely, food would calm my mind. If I were anxious, food would change my focus. And if I were happy – of course, I would celebrate with food.  I lived like this for years.

When my father died in 1998, in part from diabetes complications, his death was the first experience I had in losing someone close to me.   I remember being at the funeral and suddenly becoming very self-conscious of my weight. Friends and family that I hadn’t seen in years no longer recognized me. The stunned looks on many of their faces were noticeable; on my five-foot-two frame I weighed 235 pounds.  I was grieving the loss of my father and the person I used to be at the same time.

My moment of clarity came shortly after my father’s funeral. I couldn’t shake the reality of how different my life had become, how isolated I was and how much I used food to escape the problems I couldn’t face. My father’s life ended much too soon and I became afraid that I too would become a diabetic – maybe even die young, if I didn’t change the way I was living my life.

There were lots of fad diets out there and I believe I tried them all, but the best investment I ever made for my health was an impulse buy and cost me $12.  It was a pedometer. I’d read somewhere that one needed to walk 10,000 steps a day to maintain a healthy weight so I made it my mission to reach that goal, no matter what.  I didn’t change anything else other than making a point to move, and I would find any excuse to do it. I’d march in place while brushing my teeth. I would walk back and forth in my hallway while waiting for my bathtub to fill. I’d step in place while washing my dishes or talking on the phone. Wearing my pedometer gave me instant gratification.  I could look at it and see my progress at any given moment and that encouraged me to go even further. Before long I was averaging between 16,000 and 20,000 steps a day. By creating that one goal of just moving I didn’t feel as though I had turned my entire life upside down.   Once I started feeling stronger,  I wanted to move more, and I wanted to eat healthier. Notice that I emphasize on the word ‘want’.  I did it because I wanted to, not because it was part of a series of strict diet rules I had to follow. That one good habit triggered another, which triggered another, and so-on.   Once I began concentrating on my steps and how much I was moving my body I became stronger not only physically, but emotionally as well.   Using food as a way to meet my emotional needs wasn’t as much of a priority as it had been. That’s when I knew that I was on the right path towards a permanent change.

It took more than five years to lose all the weight I’d gained. I know that probably sounds like a very long time to many, and in some cases it is – especially when you have health issues that need immediate attention.  Even though I had common weight-related issues that were affecting my way of life (severe lower back pain, stiffness, lethargy) I never treated the idea of losing weight as a race. I never set specific goals to lose X amount by a certain time. Looking back I realize that I succeeded because I made small changes, little by little. This allowed me the time I needed to work on making this new way of living feel more like second nature. For me, losing slowly and steadily played a tremendous part in being able to maintain for as long as I have.

When I was interviewed I was asked what I’d learned along the way and how the loss changed my life. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I consider my emotional health as important as my physical health.  I firmly believe they should work together as a unit when losing weight.  I had to do a lot of emotional work along the way and get to the heart of why I was abusing food before I could move on towards keeping the weight off. Maintainers will tell you: losing the weight is the easy part, and I agree with that statement. Keeping it off required a complete understanding of why I overate in the first place. Without it, I would have likely regained all the weight I’d lost, if not more.  I often say to myself, If I am fit emotionally, my physical health will follow. In other words, if I am under a great amount of stress – if I’m not taking care of my mental well-being, my physical self tends to suffer. If I’m at a good place emotionally, then physically I feel stronger and in charge of my life.

Finally, blogging has been an invaluable resource for me. By the time I started reading blogs I was already in maintenance, so when I decided to start writing Fat Girl Wearing Thin, it was initially to give others who were coming into maintenance a realistic sense of what to expect when they reached their goal. I also wanted to support and share advice to those just getting started. Never did I imagine what kind of love and support I would gain in return from such a wonderful community of people. I lost my weight on my own, but my ability to maintain has been made a lot easier knowing that there are others out there who understand where I’m at, where I’ve been and are always on hand to offer loads of advice, encouraging words and wonderful ideas. 

 

 

For that, I want to thank you!

 

X0~

Ellen

Today is a Woman’s Day

Darn.  I wish this post was sitting on a Tuesday.  Then I could title it Tuesday’s Newsday.  Clever, huh?  Not very often you get a catchy title that just jumps out there.  Ah, well.  The above title will have to do. 

 

Back when I was in college, I happened to be on the phone with a classmate from my painting class.  There were three of us that were pretty tight, and we hung out together after class quite often.  As soon as I answered the phone Annie said, ‘So, who do you think Linda’s bridesmaids will be?’  She was obviously eager to talk about Annie’s recent engagement.  I didn’t know how to answer that question.  Mainly, because   I didn’t know anything about it. 

“Annie’s getting married? How?  When?” I asked while trying to keep my voice within a pleasant range. I didn’t want to give away my bewilderment as to why she hadn’t shared this news with me, although now that I think about it, the subsequent interrogation of questions probably gave me away.  All that night I wondered why she didn’t tell me this news. We’re a team, I thought.  Maybe she was waiting for me to notice the ring on her finger. That was a possibility; still, it would have been nice if she’d told me herself instead of finding out the way I did.

I can understand why some people don’t share things right away.  I remember one occasion when someone mentioned to me that she needed some design work done on a model home. Would I be interested in painting a mural in a child’s bedroom?  ‘It would probably generate a lot of business for you,’ she said.  We shared some details and I went home to tell everyone I knew that my tiny painting business may have just had its ‘big break.’  I was so excited.  Then, the company decided to go into a different direction. 

“Whatever happened with that job you were supposed to get?” I’d get asked. 

*Cough*  “Uh, well….that didn’t work out.”   I’d say, before having to answer umpteen questions as to why the company went another way.  Awkward.   I realized that I shouldn’t have said anything until I was sure it was going to happen.  Lesson learned. 

Fast forward to mid-April of this year.  I was drinking my morning tea and checking email and noticed a message from Woman’s Day Magazine.  It appeared to be from the editor of the Health and Fitness section who wanted to discuss featuring me in an upcoming article.  Yeah, right, I thought. It’s probably Spam Mail; just like the people from Nigeria who want to deposit a bunch of money into my bank account. 

So, I cross-referenced the email address from where it came.  Huh….it’s really from Woman’s Day Magazine. 

Shortly after that email I responded to the editor’s email (deciding it best not to tell her that I originally thought she was a fake) and since then have been interviewed a few times.  I’ve also sent in countless before/during/after photos of my weight at various stages during my loss.  And finally, I was given a date for the release of the article – September issue, 2012. 

Note to self:  I think it’s now safe to share the news. 

As part of my team, I wanted you to know a long time ago, but also wanted to be sure I had something to tell. 

Apparently however,  I didn’t tell my mother enough, because she keeps saying, ‘Oh, Good Lord – I keep telling people you’re going to be in Family Circle.’    Then, one of my mom’s friends called yesterday and asked, ‘So, when are you going to have that article in Cat Fancy Magazine?’ 

Okay, no one called thinking I was going to be in Cat Fancy Magazine.  I made that part up. 

I don’t even have a cat. 

Mind Adjustment Needed

If you’re reading this blog then chances are you’re a health conscious person.  Maybe you’re in maintenance; maybe you’re just beginning a plan of cleaner eating. I’ve written about many health-related issues in the last couple of years but lately I’ve been experiencing something that is entirely new to me.  As in, never in my life have I had these issues before kind of new.  It all began with a question that my mother asked recently:

Have you gained any of that weight back, yet?  You look like you’re wasting away.

Immediately, I laughed and rolled my eyes.  Without giving any serious thought to what she said, I dismissed it.  For half of my adult life I’ve dealt with weight issues.  Never before have I entertained the idea that I’d be considered underweight.

My response to my mother, and to several others who have told me the same thing since my surgery is a knee-jerk reaction to a mutual observation that I can’t seem to grasp my mind around.  But I told her the truth – even though I’ve gained less than two of the several pounds I lost, I’m eating lots of greens and proteins so that my body can finish healing.

When I was around 220 pounds I ran into a male friend whom I hadn’t seen in a long time.  He was one of those big, burly guys who gave great big bear hugs.  As we hugged each other, he started to lift me into the air to swing me around.  I remember being horrified by this and fidgeted to free myself because I thought for sure that one of two things were going to happen: either he was going to develop a hernia for stupidly attempting to lift 220 pounds or, I was so heavy he wasn’t going to be able to lift me at all.  (Awkward)  Here is the messed up part: even now, when I’m bear hugged by someone and lifted off the ground I still fidget because I’m afraid I’ll injure the person due to my weight.  I’ve been in maintenance for 7 years and still have that same knee-jerk reaction.

I have dipped below my ideal weight once before.  It was in 2008 right around the time Craig and I got married.  No one expected either of us to marry since we’d already been together for 7 years with no engagement in sight.  So, when we came up with the idea to become secretly engaged and attempt to pull off a surprise wedding, I was so busy trying to get everything organized that my weight dipped into the high 120s.  After the wedding, my body adjusted itself back to the weight it was comfortable with.

 

Eventually I was able to give up my scale because I could rely on my body to tell me when I was gaining.  For example, if my clothes were tight I knew that I needed to make adjustments so I could get back to where I needed to be.

On the very rare occasion that I happen to drop below my goal weight, my face is the first to show it, and not in a good way. I look older than my age. My facial skin becomes ruddy and I have permanent circles under my eyes. The skin on my arms and legs don’t fit properly on my frame, either. Well actually, that part I’m used to. No body lifts in my future, oddly for the same reason why I won’t give in to my desire to get my nose pierced: I feel as though I’ve passed that window where the benefit just doesn’t outweigh the action anymore.  Loose skin is just one of those things I’ve mostly accepted and try to ignore, but the more I lose the more prominent a feature my loose skin becomes.  Really, it’s amazing what just a few pounds can do to change one’s appearance.  Even though I’m over a month post-surgery I still look unwell, and my face is the biggest giveaway.

For the past month I’ve been dealing with a different kind of body image issue. Though I weigh less than I have ever weighed in my adult life, my middle is still very much bloated from surgery.  None of my shorts or pants come close to buttoning; I feel heavier even though I’m lighter. My stomach is as swollen as it was when I returned home from the hospital.  I guess what I’m admitting to is this: even though I know I need to put some weight back onto my frame, I’m not so eager to do it.   As I try to work this out in my head, I realize that part of the problem is that I’m not relying on my body to tell me what it needs anymore. Instead I have these thoughts of weight gain and menopause loitering around in my mind and they won’t go away. Tell me – what does a girl do when she’s not dealing with the same body she had 6 weeks ago?  Hormones have changed, insides have been removed and rearranged. And emotionally I feel different as well. I don’t have faith in my instincts anymore. It’s overwhelming, and as always (typical Ellen-style) I am afraid of the unknown.

Whether we are battling to lose the weight or battling to keep it from coming back, I think we can all share how it feels when something threatens to take away what we’ve worked so hard for.  How do you deal with potential threats to your success?

Are Fat People Destined to be Fat?

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to watch a most interesting segment on 60 Minutes Australia.  If you happen to live in the US, chances are you might have missed it.  I’m sure that I would have, if not for visiting one of my favorite blogs, Lynn’s Weigh.  The title of the story was called ‘The Fat Gene’ (you can watch it here as well as read the transcript) and it reported on a weight loss study that was done in Australia about why fat people remain fat. Lynn was interviewed for the story.  

The only photo of me at my heaviest.

 

A group of 50 Australians participated in this study; they were put on a 10 week diet.  They lost a lot of weight.  They were then given the tools they needed in order to keep that weight off in the form of advice about what to eat and how to exercise.  Slowly, the participants regained the weight they’d lost.

According to the researchers, it wasn’t the lack of participants’ willpower but their body’s hormone chemistry that made these people regain their weight.  Ghrelin, a so-called hunger hormone, rose 20% which in turn told the body that it was starving, even after the participants ended the diet.   The researchers go on to say that our weight is predetermined in our DNA. 

Liam Bartlett was the 60 Minutes correspondent. Summing up the researchers findings he said,

“The bottom line of this new science of weight loss is pretty harsh – fat people, despite their best efforts, will probably stay fat and there’s really not a lot they can do about it.”

Playing Devil’s Advocate, he then interviewed Dr. Rena Wing who is one of the researchers of the Weight Control Registry of which Lynn and 10,000 other maintainers are a part of in the United States (I am currently filling out my paperwork to join the study). She felt that Melbourne’s study was sending out the wrong message to heavy people.  With the thousands of maintainers she keeps track of she stated that many people are able to maintain their weight loss.  Lynn was featured as a representative to those of us who have been successful in maintaining their weight loss.  She discussed how she’s been able to maintain her loss for the last seven years: keeping track of her calories and daily exercise.   As a fellow maintainer who has also kept off 100+ pounds for 7 years I completely relate to what she said and I attribute my success to doing the exact same thing as she.  It all comes down to one word: diligence. 

But diligence is not the word that Professor Joe Proietto used.  He was the team leader in the Melbourne University study.  The words he used to describe maintainers like me were ‘obsessive-compulsive’.  He went on to say this:

“These people weigh themselves every day and run marathons. What do you think they are?”

It’s not that I disagree with Professor Proietto’s findings.  As a former heavy person I completely understand the frustration felt by people who, no matter what they do, regain some if not all the weight they’ve lost.  I’ve been there a few times myself.  What I disagree with is the way Professor Proietto presents his findings.  In my opinion, he basically sounded as though he has no faith in overweight people; that not only is it next to impossible to lose weight and keep it off but in order to do so we sacrifice ourselves as sane, well-rounded individuals. 

Labeling maintainers as obsessive-compulsive is a little over the top, in my book. If you watch the segment you’ll also hear words like ‘not normal’ to define us. But…what is normal? It seems like no matter who we are, whether fat or thin, we’re doing nothing but dodging labels (and you know how I feel about labels). 

Taken on vacation in September, 2011

I could probably write another several lengthy paragraphs on this topic but I’m not going to.  Instead, I’m going to sit back and read what you have to say on this topic, and end my post by borrowing a very eloquent, very beautiful thought by Lynn, who summed up my feelings in the most perfect way:

 

My former body and the me who occupied it continue to be the source of my determination. I would dishonor she who was me by giving up the fight, because she is the one who thought enough about herself to start that march down the scale. 

Thank you for that, Lynn.  And thank you all for reading today.  Have you seen the 60 Minutes Australia segment?  What are your thoughts on the findings of Melbourne University’s study?

What do Maintainers have in Common?

I came across a very interesting article the other day in the health and fitness section of the Herald Tribune.  The article was written by Barbara Peters Smith and was about maintainers who are taking part in a study, specifically how they have been able to keep a considerable amount of weight off for more than a year.  Dr. James Hill, the director of the Colorado Center for Health and Wellness is the scientist featured in the article. He helped create a registry that is now tracking almost 10,000 participants. The article, which you can read in it’s entirety here, states that with the people he’s researched, there was little similarity in how they lost their weight. What they were seeing was a common link in how they’re keeping it off.

I was extremely curious as to what all of these maintainers were saying about their ability to keep their weight off and whether any of them shared my own thoughts and experiences on the subject.  Here are a few things that I learned about the study participants, and I thought I’d throw in my two cents as well.

 

 

 

According to Dr. Hill, men generally make the decision to lose weight because of a health event in his life.  The decision for women to lose weight is a bit more emotional. 

My thoughts:  I agree with most of these findings.  While I’ve personally known men to make the decision to lose weight based on a major health scare, I’ve also known men that lost weight in order to capture the attention of other women.   As for women, I think there is a host of emotional reasons for wanting to be thinner but I think that more women these days are wanting it as much for health reasons as they are for wanting to fit into that little black dress. 

Dr. Hill states that two-thirds of the participants failed at maintaining at some point prior to their ultimate success.  ALL of the participants said that maintaining is a constant challenge, and 98% say it’s worth the effort. 

My thoughts:  That number doesn’t surprise me in the least.  How many of us can say when we decided to lose weight that we did it right the first time?  Trial and error is how we learn and the more we learn, the better we are at understanding what our bodies need in order to keep the weight off for good.  My thoughts on maintenance being a constant challenge?  Um – yes.  One hundred times yes, it is a constant challenge  (you have been paying attention to my occasional whine-fests, right?)  And yes, I do agree with the fact that it is worth the effort.  Unless I’m feeling despondent and frustrated (again, see whine-fest).

Dr. Hill asked his participants whether it gets easier over time to keep the weight off.  Most of them say ‘no.’ Apparently it takes 3 to 5 years on average before they feel comfortable in saying they’re confident that the weight will stay off.  Not because of better biology either, says Hill;  but because it takes a long time to master their new behaviors.

My thoughts: If the title of my blog hasn’t already given away that answer, I agree that It never gets easier to maintain.  For me, that is just the simple fact of it.  There will always be hurdles to overcome and old habits still tend to die hard.  I am currently going into my 7th year of maintaining.  I’m still not feeling terribly comfortable in saying that I’ll never gain the weight back.

I’m not trying to sound pessimistic, I’m just stating the fact that life marches on, and even though I do what I can to keep our lives in balance, I’m subject to the same kinds of change as everything and everybody else.  I think it’s more about acceptance at this point in my life. While I do still worry about gaining,  I try to stay focused on the here and now of it all.  I’d love to be able to say I will never be heavy again!  but I just don’t think that’s a fair assumption.  All I can do is make a point to nurture the best parts of me every day while continuing to make better choices along the way.

Interested in knowing what else these maintainers have in common? 

 

  1. Their diet is primarily low-fat. My diet mainly consists of low-fat options as well.
  2. They engage in a high level of physical activity. Walking is their main exercise of choice and they do resistance training.  My activities are very similar.  Walking, resistance training and yoga. 
  3. They don’t watch very much television.  I don’t watch much t.v. either.  When I do, it’s always at the end of the night when I’ve done everything else that needs to be accomplished for the day. 
  4. They are always watching their weight. Um… yes.  Yes. And yes.  It would be nice to give these thoughts a long-overdue vacation, but don’t know if that will ever happen.
  5. They weigh themselves frequently.  I used to do this. I have been trying to refrain from using my scale because my emotions were too controlled by what I weighed.  I’m sure I’ll never give up the scale completely and I do believe it’s a useful tool to have, but until I can learn to use it in a way that builds me up instead of making me feel bad about myself, I’ll continue to struggle with it. 
  6. They don’t take a day off. To me, this goes hand-in-hand with the statement, ‘They’re always watching their weight.’  Even though I still indulge, I’m no more than one thought away from making mental notes about what I’m putting into my mouth. 
  7. They eat breakfast.  Again, something that I do without fail, although I tend to eat a later breakfast than most people – usually around 10 AM or so. 

 

Had you ever heard of the National Weight Control Registry before I mentioned it here? I had no idea it existed.  Started in 1994, it is the largest prospective investigation of long-term weight loss maintenance.  The study is ongoing and if you want to be a part of it, there is only one requirement:  you must have lost at least 30 pounds and have been able to maintain that loss for at least one year.  If you fit these requirements and want to make your voice heard, click on the link above and join in the study. 

 

Whether you’re dieting or maintaining, how do your thoughts compare with these thousands of long-term losers?  Is there anything that you would add to the above list that has worked for you?