Experiencing failure in weight management: Examining lessons learned in order to become successful
As the semester wraps up at the school where I teach, and I enter final exams into the grade book, I notice some familiar occurrences. Students figuring out the minimum work they need to do in order to maintain their current grade in the class and those who worked extra hard on the final in order to compensate for missing work earlier in the semester.
I used to be one of those students. In middle and high school, I hated turning in homework for many of my classes. It wasn’t that I didn’t love learning, it’s just that the process of doing homework seemed silly to me and I felt like my time was better spent in other areas like extracurriculars or reading some non-course literature. I always attempted to learn the material, often scoring incredibly well on exams, which balanced my grades much to the chagrin of my teachers and parents.
However over time those bad habits began to take their toll. Now as a teacher, I have come to realize that homework is an important component of learning, providing continuing opportunities to strengthen your knowledge and skills in an area. And I learned that lesson the hard way, when in one high school class I fell so far behind that I eventually needed a tutor to help me learn the material so I could pass the final exam.
Why did it take getting to near failure before I caught myself? It wasn’t until a recent HMR class, when an instructor said something relating to weight management, that I made the connection. I had become complacent in my success. With every slip in my grade, I would readjust my goals, lowering the bar to make the falling grade more acceptable. Until eventually it got so low, I couldn’t figure out how to do the work by myself to bring my grade back up to where it needed to be to pass the class.
As a teacher, I have made it a goal to ensure students I work with don’t fall into these same bad habits. And as a student entering the HMR program in 2013, I was determined not to let myself slip. I did every homework assignment. I studied my own behaviors as well as paying close attention to every lesson my teachers and fellow classmates shared. And I found myself excelling at something I had failed at so many times in my adult life. I lost weight. And a lot of it.
I had successfully practiced the behaviors of the Decision Free Diet to the point it had become second-nature. My brain learned to appreciate and thrive in this structured environment full of homework and accountability. And I eventually “graduated” to the next step, Phase Two. Managing my weight and maintaining my new lighter body.
It was in Phase Two where I met my own personal nemesis again. I found myself slacking off on healthy behaviors, choosing to skip a serving of vegetables and having a an unmeasured serving of fried rice instead. And as I saw small gains on the scale, I kept readjusting my healthy weight range. When I got worried about the gains, I found myself holding “cram sessions” where I would jump headfirst into weight loss behaviors in an attempt to adjust for gains, without making a plan to sustain that loss (much like a student crams for a test and then forgets all of the material the day after). And over time, I became complacent. Until I had gained so much of my lost weight back, that I felt like a failure.
This has not been an easy post to write. Nor has it been an easy lesson to come to terms with. Through my complacency with the ever-upward creeping scale and my desire to focus on “extracurriculars” instead of foundational lessons, I have found myself failing in weight management. I made choices to ignore the lessons I learned in Phase One and Phase Two classes that would allow me to be successful, and instead I felt shame and a loss of so many health benefits I had worked hard to earn, like climbing stairs without feeling winded or sleeping without feeling acid climbing up the back of my throat.
Maintaining weight loss is a course you cannot graduate from. It is a course you are enrolled in for the rest of your life. There isn’t a final exam you can hire a tutor to prepare you for, where you only need X% in order to pass your class and maintain your weight on your permanent record. And this has been a difficult lesson for me to come to terms with. In order to be successful in this lifelong lesson, I will need to be consistent in practicing my healthy behaviors. I will need to stop adjusting up what is a “passing grade” for a healthy weight range to justify continued weight gain. And I will need to stop being complacent in the world of the gap.
Much like a student who struggles in an advanced academic class, I am going back to my foundational coursework. I have accepted that I need to work on my relationship with fruits and vegetables. And I need to lose the weight that I have allowed myself to put back on my body. So I have started again as a student in the Core classes of Phase One, enrolled in Healthy Solutions this time from the beginning. I know this means I will be faced with making more decisions during weight loss, which I found difficult in my transition to Phase Two. So this will be important for me to focus on during the weight loss phase. It also will mean I am eating a higher calorie minimum prescription, which will mean I lose at a slower rate, but will also mean more time to practice these behaviors during weight loss. I am back in my late night Wednesday classes and surrounded by a number of new and returning HMR students. I am determined to be successful again, this time not just in weight loss but also in the lifelong class of managing that loss. I know the HMR Diet works. I just need to make sure I am also doing the work.
With this in mind – I’d love to hear your favorite HMR Phase One recipes. Decision Free and Healthy Solutions. Please share or link in the comments!
Training to run a marathon did not make me fat
I am training for a marathon. And I am gaining weight. But marathon training didn’t cause this to happen. And I have been thinking a lot about this possible connection as I prepare to toe the start line of the New York City Marathon on November 6.
Let’s examine the facts. Which is going to involve talking about running for a bit. But if you are here for the self-discovery and discussion of weight gain, don’t worry, that will be coming in a little while.
I began training to run the Portland Marathon starting in the summer of 2015. I ended up with a DNS (did not start) after dealing with some injuries late in the summer. Rested. Recovered.
I started training for the Little Rock Marathon in October of 2015. I ended up getting different injuries but finishing the marathon. Albeit with time goals thrown out the window.
And two days after Little Rock in March of 2016, I confirmed I would be training for New York. But after not recovery properly from Little Rock, I have spent a large amount of time in physical therapy with yet another injury (shockingly these are all linked to some genetic issues, not shockingly they are all uniquely different injuries). However, I do have adjusted time goals. But ultimately I want to enjoy what I am openly acknowledging may be my last marathon, at least for a couple of years.
So essentially, for the last 17 or so months, I have been in some stage of marathon training or recovery. And while I haven’t stepped on the scale in a couple of weeks (more on that later) – I know I have gained about 20-30 pounds since May 31, 2015. But to be more specific – I gained 5-7 pounds in the summer of 2015, lost 14 pounds while I was injured and not running at all, gained 17 pounds during my training for Little Rock, struggled for awhile in recovery after (gaining another 7 pounds), and then losing 14 pounds before starting training for New York. So (and I am not the best at math), when I started training for New York, I was about 5 pounds heavier than when I started training for Portland the previous summer. But that doesn’t change the fact that the last time I stepped on the scale, I was 16 pounds heavier than I was when I started training for this marathon.
Going into marathon training, I knew many people had struggled with weight gain. From talking to my health coach, I knew this was something I would need to be mindful about. And so I went and did some research. HOLY MOLY don’t even try Googling weight gain and marathon training. SO MUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN!
But more specifically, so much is contradictory. The FIRST article I opened (which I just found again near the top of the search page) had 6 reasons people gain weight and several of those reasons literally contradict each other! From being too strict about food to overeating to underfueling during the running to overfueling during the run; the information is endless and quite frankly overwhelming.
However, I realize after 17 months of training/recovering… that marathon training didn’t make me gain weight. I have just allowed it to serve as a mask, or as an excuse for struggles I have battled my whole life.
Marathon-training meant focusing on specific training goals with a specific training plan. A hyper-managed schedule to weave into my already full plate. But luckily, what it really just meant was rearranging my fitness schedule, because I learned after a couple of minor injuries, that I couldn’t add training on top of everything else I was doing.
So in reality, I didn’t increase my physical activity too much over the course of a week. But I did shift my mindset and I began more single-sport training. Which meant I wasn’t getting the same level of intensity 5 days a week, but was having some high intensity days and some much lower days. I have since realized that this threw my use of physical activity as a form of stress management out the window and I found food again as a form of stress relief, a habit I had mostly managed to eliminate, but did not realize had snuck back into my life until recently.
I also began to use the marathon as my excuse, or crutch, for more than just taking a rest day. And as I think about this, I realize that we all do this, even if we aren’t training for a marathon. For example, last year I struggled with stress in a new position at work, and people told me it would be understandable if I gained weight because I “had an excuse” – but while I had new challenges in my job, I also knew that it was just different struggles, and it wasn’t an excuse to eat. But I let marathon training be that excuse because I knew it had a timeframe and I could just start working on weight management after the race.
Finally, I realize now that I just didn’t have a maintainable weight of eating for weight management in place prior to starting marathon training. And long runs on Sunday took the place of meal preparation and planning. And the socialization events associated with training took away the desire to do the meal prep and planning. And because I was now constantly thinking about running, about injury prevention, about travel planning, about being stressed because I couldn’t go work out that afternoon because I had a long run in the morning, and at that point something just had to give.
For those of you who have followed my health and fitness story for awhile, you will realize I have struggled with this balance before. And I know this about myself. But I let the marathon mask this, and managed to put myself on the back burner at the same time I was supposedly focusing on myself.
I have some plans in mind that I look forward to sharing soon about how I will be working to lose this weight while finding a way to better manage it long term. I know I will always struggle with my weight. I will continue to gain and to lose (hopefully with a lot less gaining in the future). I will continue to have to confront myself and figure out the trigger of the moment and will have to reframe.
Right now, I will continue to make healthier choices. I am not going to focus on losing weight until after the marathon because that’s a week and a half away and I am not going to add the additional stress to myself right now because I would be setting myself up for failure. But you should expect there will be a number of blogs in the coming weeks both about the marathon, but also confronting the scale, and starting the process to lose the weight I have gained. I look forward to sharing more, but for now I am off to my weekly physical therapy appointment!
Thoughts about weight, clothing size, public commentary, and body image.
It’s been awhile since I have written a lengthy thoughtful post, and with Back-to-School Day just around the corner and a pile of tests to grade, I can’t promise this will be long. But it will be thoughtful.
Earlier this year INKnBURN, a small art-focused activewear company that I love, selected me to be an ambassador for their clothing. I wrote about it earlier this year, and am still pinching myself over the honor. I never imagined someone might think I was worthy to be a face of “activewear” and wearing this clothing makes me feel like a badass, so it meant even more to me that I could share my love of their work as an official ambassador.
One of the parts of this company that I have appreciated is their response to their customers and helping to spread the physical activity love by showing all shapes and sizes in their social media communications. No, they may not be able to provide clothing that is perfect for everyone, but they are working incredibly hard to try (especially considering how they are a small company that does all of their production in-house here in the United States). INKnBURN recently released a fit chart and I am proud to have been included. No, it doesn’t include every size – that chart would be never-ending – but it does show women of various heights and weights and shapes, many of whom are wearing the SAME size.
This picture means a lot to me. It helps to communicate that a size number on a tag shouldn’t be your end goal. It tells me that it’s about wearing what fits and how you feel in what you wear. It’s that awesome activewear makes you look and feel like a badass! And that keeps you active!
I am not 150lbs any more. I have struggled in the process of weight management to balance the high-calorie foods with the high-volume foods. I have had weeks where I have thrown in the towel and then spent four weeks trying to correct it. Weight management is rough, but I know it’s a lifelong process and the secret is not to give up.
However, I am proud of my journey. And while I may not be my lightest weight, I am still more active and more health-focused than I ever was before my HMR journey. I lift weights, I run, I do yoga, and I play. Yes, I would like to be lighter and yes I know this will require me to put my nose back to the proverbial grindstone. But I am also working to find a manageable balance in my Phase Two world.
And I am a lot stronger mentally than I was before HMR. I am realizing this as random strangers comment on the size of my body and the fit of my clothes in a public space. From women who said there were no bigger girls pictured (I am the heaviest person on the picture, so I guess I am not a big girl) to women who appreciated the bigger girls pictured (now I guess I am a big girl) to the women who specifically tried to pinpoint how I could wear the same size as a woman 55 pounds lighter than me (including one who said I was just wearing the wrong size – funny because it seems to fit wonderfully – worked out in those shorts this morning!). Reading some of the less sensitive comments (people who may have forgotten we are real people who have also commented on the thread), hurt at first. But then I realized I was okay with it. I know my body. I know what fits comfortably when I go punch a heavy bag or run 13 miles. What I like to wear for 90 minutes of hot yoga or an hour of OrangeTheory. And that’s what matters!
When I was 150lbs, I wore a pair of size 2 petite skinny jeans and had a body fat % of under 20. Even at that weight, I would still have been heavier than several of the amazing athlete who I was being compared with in the fit guide. They are rockstars and so am I. We wear what we want to wear and we all look good.
I have learned along my journey that I am more than just the number of the scale or the number on the tag in my shorts. I also have learned it’s easy to judge others without knowing them or their stories. And it’s easy to judge or make comparisons about those lighter or heavier, bigger or smaller, but in the end what does that really do for you?
Not that many of the comments were negative – and that is important to note. Many women saw themselves in the picture and that is fantastic. That women who feel however they may feel about themselves could see themselves rocking cool workout attire and getting their fitness on. That makes me happier than I could ever explain. Because I love how I feel in my INKnBURN. It inspires me to get out and get active. And I want others to feel like physical fitness badasses too regardless of your scale or shorts size!
Weight management success: Why the media portrayal of the “Biggest Loser study” is flawed
I have had a lot of ideas flying through my head the last few months and have had difficulty putting any of them down in words. But I read a post this morning that was discussing a study about “Biggest Loser” participants having difficulty maintaining their weight loss and a part of that article resonated with me:
“If you want to succeed with long-term weight loss, it’s crucial that you embrace both reality and imperfection. Remember, too, that your best efforts will vary. Your best when facing a challenging time in life will be different from your best when everything is hunky-dory, just as your best on your birthday, or on a vacation, or at a holiday meal will require indulgence.”
The article hit a place in my gut that really isolated a lot of what I have been juggling in my head. I have struggled with weight management in my first year teaching new subjects and dealing with some personal stresses, and I have felt like I am constantly hitting the “reset” button. Like I wasn’t giving my best effort to maintain what I had worked so hard to accomplish.
My health educator recently told our class that we always check-in to tell him what we are doing wrong. That we often fail to celebrate what we have done right. And reflecting on my own check-ins, I can see what he means. I can easily pinpoint when I have succumbed to the GAP and eaten everything in my purview. I know when I have skipped a workout. I know when I have decided to eat a high calorie food when a veggie or fruit would have worked just as well. I have seen my weight go up and down over the last 18 or so months since I transitioned out of the Phase One HMR classes. I have beaten myself up for the gains, and when I have had a loss, I have beaten myself up that I even needed to lose in the first place.
It’s hard to define what your best effort it, especially when we live in a world of comparatives. I struggle daily when I look at people successfully maintaining their weight and want to be like them but then I see others around me who don’t have to count every calorie and I want to be like them as well. I want to be free of managing my health but I want my health managed. I want to be a social butterfly but I also want to have the body of someone who lives at the gym and never eats a gram of fat. I know I can’t have all of these things as some of them operate on completely contradictory orbits. And I know this.
Everyone is different. Everyone’s “best effort” will be different. And everyone’s definition of a “tough time” will be different. The secret is figuring out what my own personal definition is – figuring out what is maintainable, what is my push-effort, and when I am not giving it my all.
We discussed the Biggest Loser study in health class last week and while many focused on the negatives, I wanted to learn more about the success story. The woman who not only kept it off, she continued to lose weight. Erin Egbert was quoted as saying she continues to struggle daily, but somehow she has found success. However, there isn’t much in the news about how she has managed to do it. The popular media instead chose to also focus on the failures, and not the successes.
So where does that leave me and my mental struggles?
First, I must continue to embrace the reality that weight management is really an EVERYDAY responsibility. I won’t make the comparison to brushing my teeth because I think that’s too simplistic. Instead, let’s compare it to sleeping. I could choose to not sleep – and I have done so in the past – but the implications of not giving myself ample time to sleep are magnified with each hour I shave off in a week. I can try to “catch up” on sleep but it isn’t the same, similar to crash dieting after a few weeks of ignoring weight management.
Second, I must realize that my best efforts need to be in relation to my own experiences and not the experiences of others. Just because some people can abstain from comfort eating easily, can deny themselves of food groups by just saying no over and over, I may still struggle with this, especially in times of stress. But I need a clearer definition of what a challenging time looks like, or when I am just making excuses. It’s like the sleep analogy. Choosing not to sleep so I can watch one more episode of a television series is not a responsible method of managing my sleep patterns. However, not being able to sleep due to nightmares or stress would be a challenge I might have less control over.
The reality that I need to accept is that this will be something I will struggle with my whole life. Weight loss was the easy part, but keeping it off will be with me forever. Some day it might get easier, but just like getting a regular and consistent amount of sleep (and forsaking a late night social event or television marathon), it will still be something I will need to be consciously aware of. I need to continue to celebrate my successes while acknowledging when I slip up, so I can keep myself on track.
I want to be the success story. I *will* be the success story. And I won’t let my journey be reframed to focus on the negative storyline.
Measuring Progress: Six Weeks of Change in Photos
Six weeks ago, I began a weight loss challenge with my OrangeTheory Fitness studio. I paid my $25, took weight and waist measurements, as well as “before” photos. Today, at 4:30 in the morning, I returned for the six week final results. Here are the photos…
You can TOTALLY see the difference, right? The progress is OBVIOUS, right?
To be honest, I couldn’t initially. I looked at them this morning and felt a rush of disappointment. I knew the results on the scale were minimal – I hadn’t really entered the challenge to lose weight. I was entering the height of marathon training with the knowledge I had gained some weight early in my training due to family stresses, and I wanted to finish my training strong (and maybe a couple of pounds lighter).
So when I stepped on the scale this morning and I was a couple pounds heavier than I was at the 3 week midpoint, I missed the joy of being lighter than I was six weeks ago. And I missed an even bigger change.
It’s not always about our weight.
In the last six weeks, I ran my first 18 mile long run. And my first 20 mile run. I did several sets of goblet squats using a 70-pound dumbbell (the heaviest weight my OTF studio has!). I have added modifications to basic core work to make it harder. I have, ultimately, grown stronger and more confident in my physical capabilities. And I am ready for this marathon (even if tapering is making me a little crazy).
It’s really easy to measure progress on the scale. You are rewarded by hard, clear data. You can physically see the difference as the numbers on the scale go down.
But you can’t always clearly measure confidence. You can’t get hard, clear data on inner strength.
And sometimes it’s important to see beyond the hard data and recognize the progress you have made that’s not as easy to measure.
Stress Management and Weight Management – what is in your toolbox?
I have been sitting on this post for about a week. I wrote it in my head and then rewrote it about 60 more times before I finally opened up my computer and started writing. So what you are getting now is a stream of conscious thought that has been overthought. And that’s about where I am with this topic right now.
I had a very stressful series of incidents occur recently in my life. Without going into detail, I will leave it as one of the more stressful moments in recent history. And now, in the aftermath of the initial fallout, I am left reflecting on what I did well and where I need to continue to work on my stress management strategies.
First, a good practice, is that I exercised. A LOT. I worked out every day for at least an hour and on top of that took long hikes several days with friends. This physical activity helped me to relieve a lot of the physical anxiety I was feeling about the events that had unfolded. For an hour, I could just run, bike, row, kick, jump, sing loudly to music and leave my stress at the gym door.
I also tried to ensure I met my minimum intake of vegetables and fruit each day. I didn’t alway make it. But I kept it in the front of my mind and would opt for produce if it was available and in front of me.
But then there was the bad. And if you have been reading my posts for awhile, you can guess where I am going with this. I ate and drank just about everything in front of me after consuming that produce. I didn’t shovel food nonstop, but I did not make conscious choices about what I ate or when I ate it. I ate to comfort myself from the emotional and mental stress that I was facing. I would go out with friends to avoid facing the stress and would drink (in mostly restrained quantities) but this loosened my inhibitions which resulted in even less restraint about food choices. And it was a holiday week which meant those bad choices were everywhere around me.
I didn’t stop to think. I didn’t stop to evaluate how those food choices would impact my weight management. I didn’t consciously, in most cases, even realize I was making decisions about food. And now in hindsight, I can see where I didn’t use my other tools to manage my emotional and mental stress.
I am trying to regroup. I have meal plans and have food prepped. I am preplanning in order to reduce my choices about food. Which will help me continue to work through the current stress factors in my life. But I want to continue to build my stress management toolbox. And I think there are some pretty awesome people reading my ramblings. So I am throwing it out to you.
If you are still reading this post, please take one minute to reply. Share one way you manage stress. Or one way you combat emotional eating. What’s in your Stress Management/Weight Management toolbox?
How do you summarize a year? 2014 in review.
As another year comes to a close, I surf my Facebook feed and read through emails attempting to digest and reflect on all that has happened in 2014. Everything that was lost and all that was gained.
I wanted to write that “this is a year that will go down in my history as a special year” but then I stopped myself. Because every year should probably be a special year. In fact writing that sentence reminded me of a short post in 2011 that I wrote when this blog was just a collection of randomness (oh wait, it’s still sort of that way, only more consistent!).
The fact that we highlight a specific timeframe. That we measure things based on a calendar. It’s always bothered me and yet motivated me.
Health class yesterday centered around this idea of timeframe. And more specifically about resolutions. About setting S.M.A.R.T. goals to help accomplish what we set out to do in the coming year. Goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound.
I set my goals for 2015. I want to run a full marathon (Portland look out!). I want to get under 150 pounds and stay there (the plan is to stick with a Healthy Solutions based diet). I want to journal at least once a week as writing has and will continue to be a release for me. I want to continue to raise money for community organizations. And I want to continue to strive for a better work-nonwork life balance which I will begin to accomplish through continuing to ensure I have “me time” through fitness and journaling.
As I set those 2015 goals out for the Internet to digest, my mind wanders back over everything 2014 brought to the table. I honestly don’t think I had any resolutions for this year. I just knew I needed to stick to the HMR Diet (I was still in the first months of Core) and that I just needed to continue to take small steps that would build upon each other towards the “yellow brick road to Oz” (sorry I just giggled and imagined an HMR class linking arms and skipping down a path to the Emerald City of Healthy and couldn’t resist sharing).
In January of 2014, I took a rare weekend off work. I traveled with friends. And I learned to put my needs out publicly rather than giving in to those who pushed back. Oh and on a whim, I signed up for the Disneyland Half-Marathon in August. I should probably note I had never run a full mile at this point.
In February of 2014, I ran my first mile (hmmm was there a motivation connection to the previous month? lol). It was at 4.0 mph on the treadmill. I stopped after one mile. But I ran a full mile without stopping. I also tried out every single group exercise class my gym offered at least once. And the ones I hated, I forced myself to revisit again later in the year, just to make sure I really didn’t like them.
In March of 2014, I celebrated my birthday at the gym. I invited all of my friends and we did BodyCombat and Zumba and it was so much fun!
In April of 2014, I ran a 10k. And I loved it. I felt strong. I felt empowered. I felt alive.
In May of 2014, I ran two 5ks with friends and learned how social running could be. I hit the 90 pounds lost mark after 6 months on HMR and blogged about it.
In June of 2014, I ran my first sub-30 5k. A number I had only dreamed about. And in a tutu! I also finished in first place in my Boxing Fundamentals class final exam. I LOVE boxing! Oh and I hit the magic 100 pounds lost.
In July of 2014, I introduced my mother to her first 5k. And she finished under her goal time. I ran a 6-mile race with my husband (the self-proclaimed “non-runner” in the family) by my side. I also ran through the streets of New Orleans after an impulsive race-day sign-up. And I stayed in the Decision Free box the entire time I traveled.
In August of 2014, I RAN TWO HALF-MARATHONS and finished both in under two hours and thirty minutes – one of which was the Disneyland Half. What?!?!?!? No but really… WHAT?!?!?! I also transitioned to Healthy Solutions.
In September of 2014, I ran a sub-60 10k. Can you tell how freakishly proud I am of my running? Probably because it’s super easy to measure compared to so many of my other accomplishments and because it’s something I used to try to get out of doing in high school gym class. I also transitioned to Phase Two.
In October of 2014, I completed the Rock and Roll San Jose Remix – PRing my 5k on Saturday and conquering my mental behemoth (and PRing) at the San Jose Half Marathon on Sunday.
In November of 2014, I hit my one year anniversary since starting HMR. And I ran with friends on Thanksgiving and scored a new 10k PR!
In December of 2014, I shaved some more time off my 5k (post coming in January) at the Santa Run. And I learned a LOT about myself. I spent the holiday season fighting in the gap. And I survived without too many bruises.
I am leaving 2014 on a high note. I know I have a lot of self-improvement still to do. A lot of goals I want to accomplish. But a renewed sense of self-determination and body full of energy (despite today’s 5:15am OrangeTheory class).
So in short, 2014, thank you for everything you taught me about myself and about the world around me. I am truly blessed to have gotten a chance to experience everything you contained and I look forward to jumping feet first into what 2015 has in store!
Ten Questions to Celebrate Ten Months on the HMR Diet
Wow. Today is September 13th and I went to my very first class on November 13th. Ten complete months on the HMR Diet. I have a bajillion (it’s a real number in my world) thoughts running through my head about the past ten months and what the future holds. But I will try to contain my ramblings and keep this post somewhat focused.
Today I saw many of my students’ parents for the first time this school year and for many parents I hadn’t touched base in person since our conferences last November. Many were very open about their surprise and open happiness for my improved health, including one or two who thought I was a different teacher and they had come to the wrong room. In light of the many questions I answered throughout the day about my journey, I thought I would select ten common questions I get now in order to celebrate the ten months since I started this incredible journey.
1. What did you do to lose all this weight?
Well this one is easy for those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile. I started on the Decision Free diet with HMR which is a medically supervised diet where I was prescribed a minimum of two entrees and three shakes/cereals/soups a day. Yes I could only eat the HMR food but between the balancing of the meals themselves plus additional vitamins, I stayed healthy – in fact I had the fewest amount of sick days in a school year that I can remember! I could also eat more than my minimum if I wanted and I would still lose weight (due to the high volume and low calorie make-up of the HMR meals).
On my nine month anniversary, I transitioned to Healthy Solutions where I began introducing a minimum of five vegetable/fruit servings a day, again embracing the more is better mindset. While the weight loss slowed, I have still continued to lose most weeks. It has been more difficult to make decisions because now the outside world is open but it’s also great to have the additional options.
This week I began the transition to Phase Two by each day introducing one outside meal replacement of 300 calories or less with ten grams of protein or more. This has been an interesting week as I explore foods I really missed like eggs and while I will write more on this transition later, in short I realize I haven’t been missing much over the last ten months.
2. Don’t you get tired of the same food all the time?
Yes and no. I have obviously been very limited in my choices however I have mixed it up with various condiments and preparation methods. My weekly homework assignments have challenged me to be creative and this has kept me engaged. During the ten months, I didn’t allow outside foods into my life. I learned many valuable lessons from my classmates about how to handle stressful situations and manage life should I find myself slipping off course.
3. What does it taste like?
Food. So here’s the deal. I know it’s all packaged. And the thought of consuming it made me gag a little a first. I almost threw up after my first couple of bites of a cold entree in an airport during my second week on the diet. But it was all in my head. I had to reframe in the first couple of weeks to think of it as a prescription and separate the word “food” from the equation. Once I got over the mental hurdle and actually tasted the food, it was quite tasty! Yes, the barbecue chicken, for example, doesn’t have the same texture as a commercially plumped chicken breast because it is vacuum-sealed. But everything has good flavor and you can change them up with the dozens of allowed condiments and spices.
4. Do you plan on losing more?
I am still above my BMI range for normal. I would love to be within that range. But I also know my body and mind are tired focusing on losing weight. I fit in a size small in most tops and a size six petite (sometimes four!) in pants. While my numbers-focused brain is still catching up with this realization, I logically know that I am at a reasonable weight for my size. I would like to lose ten to fifteen more pounds, especially from my stomach, to get to my “half-my-size” weight but I am choosing to transition now because I know I need to learn how to incorporate outside foods “safely” in my life and wanting to lose a little bit more would help me to avoid going hog-wild in the outside world. I am probably at the top of my happy weight range, a range I want to develop and to try to live within after recognizing that a single goal number isn’t practical (thanks to my health educator).
5. How many hours do you exercise a week?
This is where some people I know call me crazy. To be honest, when I started this diet I maybe did two to three hours a week broken down into much smaller bits. It was all low intensity.
Now I do six to twelve hours most weeks and it’s usually 30 to 60 minutes a block multiple times a day. But it’s not because I have to do it… it’s because I LOVE doing it. I was sidelined earlier this week for a day and missed my training session and boxing class and I was super cranky.
I know I may have to dial back during the debate season but even my most conservative schedules have at least six hours. I can’t imagine doing less. I feel amazing when I work out and the feeling extends past the actual sweat session.
6. What exercises do you do?
In short – I do a LOT of things. I get bored easy.
When I started HMR, I walked. A lot. I used the elliptical on the easiest setting. I did spin class without a ton of resistance. And I started swim class. I am still taking swim lessons and my teacher encouraged me to go to masters swim sessions, so I try to include one a week when I can (although I am still no where near as fast as those guys, it’s a fun way to structure a swim workout!).
A month into HMR I gathered up courage to ask a trainer about the free session that came with my membership. I met Eliana and the rest was history. I have been working out with her for one to two days a week since. She started with building small muscles to help stabilize weaknesses and we have worked our way through her program and she has helped tailor my workouts based on my needs and abilities.
I have also tried almost every class our gym offers — I know what I like and what I don’t like. And if I didn’t like a class, I made myself go again a month later to make sure I really didn’t like it. I discovered in some cases I didn’t. But in some it was that I either wasn’t ready for it yet or it was just an off day for the class the first time around or in some cases I just needed the chance to adjust to the type of activity it was and learn some of the basics.
When I had lost about 60 or 70lbs, I took my walking to running. I ran my first full mile in late February and worked my way up to running 13.1 miles. I learned I hate running on a treadmill and I actually prefer running without music most days. Some days I run fast and some days I run slow. I also love races because of the challenge and also the community of runners I get to run with.
A few months ago my gym offered a small group (3-5) boxing fundamentals class and I fell in love. I wish I could keep this one up during the school year but once this session’s final happens, I will have to take a break because I will miss too many classes with my travels. However between the technique and conditioning, I get a ridiculous workout.
In late June I also tried a free OrangeTheory class and decided it would be a great supplement to my running by giving me speed and hill workouts during these classes.
7. How do you fit it all in?
My health classes are non-negotiable. They are once a week and unless I am gone for a full week, they can’t be missed. I need that accountability and built it into my schedule.
I plan more workouts than I can practically do. Some are set in stone and I treat like doctor’s appointments like boxing classes and my workouts with Eliana. Others I am more flexible with. By scheduling extras on my calendar, I don’t feel guilty if I have to cancel one or two. As long as I get in the majority, I am having a good week.
I try to prep lots of fruits and veggies in one bout and portion them out to grab all week. And I have HMR entrees and shakes in my classroom and car and purses so I am never without and thus have no excuse to not stick with my eating plan.
And honestly I have had to let some things go. My apartment is probably not as clean as it could be but my husband is luckily super amazing and he takes on a lot of the dirty work. I also don’t spend as much time randomly surfing the web or other time sucks.
I have also found I have more energy and am more focused which means I get a lot more done in the day than I used to.
Finally, I don’t let myself make excuses any more. When I don’t want to do something, I ask what excuse I am trying to use. If there is a legitimate reason and not an excuse, it’s fine. But if I can counter it with a solid response, it’s an excuse and I need to suck it up and get over it. I deserve the best I can give myself and that means not getting lazy and countering all my hard work because of some lame excuse.
8. How do you keep up with work travel while doing this diet?
Super easy! Lots of planning ahead by making sure I have enough HMR food packed. I have written a number of blog posts here about traveling on HMR that you can find for more details using the tags to the right of this post.
9. How much better do you feel now?
Honestly I can’t even begin to explain this one. I feel like I have my life back. Actually scratch that. I feel like I have more life back than I ever had before. It is absolutely unquantifiable!
10. Is it expensive?
Yes and no. For someone like me who ate out a lot? I probably saved money the last ten months. The meals range in price from $2 to $4 and you consume 5 or more a day. So it does add up. Plus health classes and medical tests depending on whether you do Healthy Solutions or Decision Free and your insurance may or may not cover those things.
However most diets are expensive. And none of the others worked for me. So it was a bunch of wasted money. I knew this would be an investment going into it. However in some ways the investment also was a disincentive to cheat. I have spent so much on diets over the years – I needed to stop flushing money down the drain.
Plus, I can’t begin to quantify how much better my quality of life is. How more productive I am and how much I have saved myself in future weight-related medical costs. How positive my outlook is (yes someone told me to “shut up Pollyanna this week and I beamed). I can’t even begin to think of how many years I have gained back in my life. And these things are truly priceless.
This is it. #DisneylandHalf
On November 13, 2013, I started the HMR Diet. Walking quickly left me out of breath and running was out of the question.
On January 28th, 2014, I logged on to Facebook during my lunch break and saw on Facebook that the Disneyland Half Marathon was 90% full after only opening a couple of hours earlier.
I signed up.
I had not yet run a full mile.
On February 20th, 2014, I sent the following email to my health coach:
“I arrived early for a class and thought… Wonder if I could run a mile before class?
I did it! It was “only” at 4.0mph but I don’t care. I didn’t walk at all!!!!I am stupid excited and just had to share. Thank you for the motivation!”
HMR Decision Free Diet – Nine Month Review and Progress Pictures
I swore I wasn’t ever going to post progress pictures on my blog. When I first started writing about the HMR Diet, I wanted my experience to be anonymous. I just needed a place where I could explore what I was learning, thinking, and feeling. However I realize now that I can’t be anonymous at this point. Not because so many people I know read this blog now, but because it would be selfish of me.
When I started HMR, I craved success stories. I wanted to see progress pictures. Even now I buy magazines like People touting normal people losing weight because it inspires me and shows me we can all do it. So at the end of this post I will share my nine month pictures.
First, I want to explore my thoughts. I am officially down 122 pounds at nine months and one week. I have also begun my transition to Healthy Solutions (started last week at the nine month mark). When I started this program I gave myself one year to be on Decision Free. My mental framing that it would take this long kept me going — knowing there would be an eventual end. However a year seemed too long so I think the desire to transition earlier motivated me to stay in the box and to seize every fitness opportunity I could.
I have been in the box every day since starting the program. I have had a few emotional eating days but used meal replacements when other tools like journaling or exercise weren’t cutting it. I have had two or three weeks where I didn’t lose weight (also didn’t gain) and I missed two weeks of weigh ins for travel (one week in June and one a couple weeks later in July). I can say from experience that being away from class made it harder to stay on the program because those in person accountability points aren’t just to keep up in check but also have me leaving class feeling refreshed and motivated.
When I started this diet walking at 3.0 on the treadmill was fast and there were days where walking at 2.0 for 40 minutes while watching an episode of Scandal was a big workout. I swam laps but only a couple and very slowly.
This past Sunday, just a couple of days after my nine month anniversary, I ran my first half marathon since starting HMR. And by ran, I actually ran and killed my previous PR by over 50 minutes! Super proud of this picture because I feel like it captures how far I have come:
Was it easy? Never. But did it become habit? Yes. When you reframe away from what you can’t have and focus on what you can, it makes it so much easier to manage Decision Free. When you focus on each day as becoming the best person you can be, the days pile up into making you an awesome person. When you seize every opportunity for fitness and give it everything you have rather than make excuses then you find yourself seeing physical results even when the scale moves slowly or not at all.
You can make excuses or you can make your move. I had ALL the injuries. Bad knees. Sciatica. Lower back pain. Asthma. I work 40+ hours during the week and 20+ weekends a year. I am traveling ALL the time. I am not wealthy. I don’t live alone. I spend time around temptation EVERY day. And I HAVE found success but it wasn’t handed to me. I had to fight for every single pound and while I have had people tell me I “make it look easy” — it hasn’t been. But nothing amazing is easy.
Now I am transitioning to Healthy Solutions and although I am loving the produce and I am trying to take it slowly, I won’t lie that I am also scared. I have confidence in myself but I am anxious and I can’t articulate why, other than I am constantly entering new territory and that keeps me on my toes.
I teach public speaking – it’s one of the biggest fears in America. Thus I understand having unexplained anxiety and trying to manage and overcome to the best of our abilities. I practice positive visualization (ordering a Healthy Solutions option at a restaurant when I inevitably go out) and I carry a touchstone to keep me grounded when I need to make a decision. I journal my food and exercise. I practice tricks like always keeping a zero calorie beverage in my hand in social settings. And I expel the rest of the nervousness through exercise. I will manage my anxiety like I will manage my weight. One day at a time with mindfulness and positive energy. And no excuses.
A rather lengthy post. And I feel like I have so much more to say. But tomorrow we meet up with our students for the first time this school year so I am off to bed. But as promised, here are my nine month progress pictures. I am proud of my hard work and continue to motivate myself every day to excel so that the work I have done is honored and not destroyed.
When Willpower Isn’t Enough
This has been a hard post to write and I have been mulling about it for a couple of days. I am currently in New Orleans aka “The Big Easy” aka Food Culture Lives Here aka a really tough trip to be on while on the Decision Free HMR Diet. However, I needed to work some things out and since that’s why I started this blog, I need to get it all out here.
I have been on Decision Free for 35 weeks and am currently in week 36. I have not slipped outside of the box once. Knowing my history with diets, I knew when I started that I couldn’t have a cheat meal and not risk derailing like so many diets before.
I am now at my lightest weight ever. Heck, I showed up on Saturday morning on a red-eye and decided to sign up for a 5k in downtown New Orleans that evening and ran it in under 31 minutes! I am so much healthier than I was in November when I started. (And crazier… do you know how hot and humid it is here?!?)
The problem with getting lighter and healthier is that I am finding it harder and harder to stay HMRStrong and inside the box. I have been on the road for most of July between personal and professional travel – I have survived three red-eyes, a week in Disney World, hours upon hours of stressful travel delays, revisiting old eating haunts in Boston… so much temptation. It’s becoming ridiculously hard to say no to temptations because I feel so much better than I ever have. My willpower is weakening by the day.
My health instructor has this demonstration that he does when he talks about willpower. He holds a pencil up in the air and tells us that eventually that arm will give out. Willpower isn’t enough – it can only take you so far. And my arm definitely wants to drop the pencil.
So I am in one of the most food-centric cities in the world and trying not to eat everything around me. Instead I am practicing more is better but second guessing after the ninth meal replacement if maybe that one bite of duck sausage or crawfish wouldn’t have been easier. Yet knowing full-well it wouldn’t have been “just one bite.”
What isn’t helping is that my weight loss has slowed down to about a pound a week for the last couple of weeks. I knew it would probably slow eventually. I also know how water math works and that I might see a bigger loss in the future. Additionally I have been weighing in right after returning from trips and I know that travel fundamentally messes with my routine and body. But the slowdown has me second-guessing if it isn’t time to stop. Rationally, I know I have a ways to go. I am still overweight and still have so much to do to make myself healthier.
The siren call of food will continue to beckon for the rest of my life. I know this. It will beckon whether I am “Decision Free” or in “Healthy Solutions” or fully transitioned into “Phase Two.” I know that the time I live “in the box” allows me the time to evaluate “The Gap” and learn how to handle these tough situations while still holding a barrier to protect myself from making those decisions now.
This is going to be a tough week. I will continue to be tested. I planned ahead and made HMR muffins and biscuits to carry at all times (like last night in the French Quarter) and brought bars and extra shakes and entrees. I have fitness plans in place. And I have work to throw myself into during the weekdays to keep me away from food. I have worked way too hard for way too long to not see this to the end. I want to be as successful as I can be. I want to do this the right way. I just needed to talk myself through my thoughts and remind myself that I can do it. It will be hard. Life is hard. As I tell my seniors going into their last debates – “Give it everything you have. Leave it all on the table. Do your absolute best. Because win or lose this debate, you want to look back and have no regrets about the choices you made. You’ve got this.”
How to lose weight the easy way…
Cut off an arm!
But on a serious note, I have recently learned from friends that a few acquaintances have been overheard saying I am losing weight “the easy way” and my only wish is that I had heard them say it.
I am not big on confrontation, but I do think this is an issue that needs confronting. There is not an “easy” way to lose weight and I am so sick of all of the judgement that exists about various diet and health choices. From the stigma of weight loss surgery to the negative attitudes about meal replacements, I just don’t understand why people feel they have the right to label one method or another “easy.”
I have been on the HMR Diet for 227 days. That is 227 days where I have had to say no to all the delicious food out there in the world. It’s 227 days of eating the same general meals. It’s 227 days of dragging my butt to do some sort of exercise. It’s 227 days of mental and physical battles.
And yes, I have lost over 100 pounds in those 227 days. And yes, that seems fast. But to me those 227 days seem like years and years of struggling.
In truth, it has been years of struggle. My first attempt at a diet was in high school when I went with my mother to a Weight Watchers meeting. And I have been dieting in some form ever since.
I know how hard it is to count calories, points, carbs, vegetables, meal replacements, cups of juice, glasses of water, grams of protein and more. None of it is easy.
The difference this time is that I have found success because I have found something I can manage. Which makes it look easy.
However, I still have to fight to get every pound off. I have to take notes and learn in every health class so I can continue to form habits to keep the weight off once it is gone. I will have to continue my health education when I begin the long process of transitioning from Phase One Decision Free to Healthy Solutions and eventually to Phase Two. It is a long and time consuming process but it is what I need to do to be successful.
Ultimately when I hear someone say someone took the “easy way out” to lose weight, what I hear is jealousy. It is the same jealousy I could hear coming from my mouth years ago when I watched someone else be successful in their weight loss journey taking a different route than the diet I had prescribed myself to. I wasn’t successful. She was. Clearly her path was easier.
I was wrong about her path. And if you think my path has been easy, you are also wrong.
It sure as hell hasn’t been easy. But it does work for me. And I am healthier because of it. You are welcome to join me.
100 pounds lost. A reflection.
This week I officially hit the 100 pound weight loss club. Spoiler alert: It’s not an actual club. No clubhouse and no secret handshake. At least not that I am yet aware of.
As friends have learned about my accomplishment, I have had a couple ask me how it feels to have lost 100 pounds. And I don’t really know how to answer.
I want to say it feels fabulous. I want to tell them how awesome I feel. I want to extrapolate on the health benefits I am seeing both physically and mentally.
But I am hung up on something bigger.
I let myself get to the point where I needed to lose over 100 pounds.
In this truth lies the complexity of the triumph.
I started running while on this weight-loss journey. I have run several races and have signed up for many more. Every race so far I have had a faster time than the previous race. I want to shout my PRs from the roof top. I earned those. I am taking myself to new places I have never been before. I was never a runner and now I am. That makes me feel fabulous.
But reflecting on the 100 pounds lost yet only being a pound lighter than my lightest adult weight… It means I was a failure in the past. I let myself gain those 99 pounds. I treated my body terribly. I hurt myself and now I am making reparations.
Yes, I could say that “hey at least I caught it and am doing something about it” but in all honesty I feel like that’s a cop-out right now. I am instead choosing to use this time to reflect on the why and the how. Not why and how I lost the weight but on the gains. I think it is important to reflect on the reasons I gained so that I don’t repeat my mistakes.
So while I am happy to have finally hit this milestone and I don’t want to dwell on the negative, I am holding off on celebrating. I am realistically approaching the accomplishment. I still have many pounds to lose until I am at a healthy weight. The reparations are being made and the real journey is just beginning.
A review of the HMR Diet: Six Months Decision Free and #HMRStrong
If someone had told me seven months ago that I would be eating prepackaged entress and shake packets as my sole form of food, I would have laughed you out of the room.
If someone had told me seven months ago that I would be running a sub-10:00 mile and swimming a mile, I would have looked at you like it was a pipe dream. “Someday… maybe….” But my heart would ache because I would doubt that I had the ability to ever pull it out.
If someone had told me seven months ago that I would be down almost 90 lbs after six months, I would have asked what limbs would I be losing in the process.
I was recently asked why I decided to take a drastic move in my life starting HMR and all of my physical training. Why now? What prompted this move?
If you have known me for years then you will know that I have had a series of struggles with my health. I gained a significant amount of weight right out of high school. I continued to put on weight when I started teaching and commuting 90+ minutes each way to work. I then lost some of that weight in 2006 counting points but some significant events in my life brought back the stress eating and the pounds. I attempted to learn to run in 2009 and lost a bit of weight but improper training and an injury uncovered bigger health issues. All the while I half-assed various diets in an attempt to both control my health but also my weight. Finally, I gave up on all of it and just “enjoyed life” while the pounds piled on.
This past summer we took a cross-country road trip. And roadside hikes that should have been easy were extremely difficult. We went to Hawaii and I felt limited in everything I attempted. I was constantly out of air. I got tired easily. I didn’t find physical activity pleasurable because I wasn’t fit and was carrying so much extra weight. Multiple people in my life passed away in the months leading up to my starting HMR and many were due to weight related health issues. I had trouble sleeping at night worrying that every ache and pain was a sign I was next.
A friend had recently gotten weight loss surgery and I was seriously contemplating it after hearing about her experience. However I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it until the summer at the earliest and we were just a couple months into the school year. So I went to my medical group’s Web site and looked at what programs they were offering to help. I saw orientations for HMR and thought “well it couldn’t hurt to check it out?”
At the time I was opposed to processed food. I wanted to lose weight on my own. I wanted to do it naturally. I was judgey-mcjudergerson about everything I thought HMR stood for. I thought “well even if I lose any weight I won’t learn how to keep it off and it will come right back on.” I had tried Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem so I was *obviously* an expert about meal replacement diets… Ha!
However I forced myself to enter the medical offices with an open mind. After all, I had kind of sucked at doing it on my own. Despite years of weight loss meetings and web sites and books and talks, I was at my heaviest weight ever. I ate more veggies than most people I knew but along with that ate and drank super high calorie foods and considered 20 minutes on the elliptical as an intense workout. In other words, I knew I needed help and I wasn’t afraid to ask for it.
At that orientation meeting, I began to understand that the HMR Diet would be a major overhaul to my social lifestyle. No alcohol? No outside foods? A WEEKLY meeting? I work over 80 hours some weeks… where was I going to fit all of this in?
But something inside of me said that I could do it. That my life depended on it.
So I drove straight from the orientation to speak to my doctor. She said I should try it. She had been an HMR doctor at a previous practice. She thought it would be harder than surgery but it would be good to do it, even as a precursor to surgery, to learn healthier habits. And so I went in for all the lab work.
As a high school student, I didn’t follow good study habits. However as a high school teacher I have learned a few things about setting myself up for success. And so I spent the couple of weeks between orientation and the first night of class preparing my environment, talking to those closest to me, and mentally preparing myself. Confession: I also had a number of “last meals” where I ate whatever I wanted and committed those tastes and textures to memory. I will write more about preparing to begin in a future post but the process itself really set me up for a successful journey.
I have social anxiety. I get nervous in new situations and meeting new people. But luckily I have an amazing health educator, a fabulous clinic full of super positive staff, and a class that had some really nice and positive people in it to provide a safe and supportive environment. The clinic is my safe haven. The first couple months I would show up an hour early sometimes to protect myself from wandering off to a drive-thru because I didn’t know how to spend that hour. I cannot stress how that support helped me get through some tough time. When I felt judgement from others for taking on this diet, I knew I had a judgement free zone.
Judgement is a big thing on this diet. Because you isolate yourself from outside foods, people feel like they can make all sorts of snide and snarky comments to you. I am not open about being on this diet, both because I don’t want my diet to define me, but also because I want to spare myself the nasty comments. If someone asks and seems interested, I will tell them about it. But unlike previous diets where I would declare to everyone what I was doing, I started this one quietly and have remained relatively quiet about it. However through my health classes I have learned how to empower myself and to deal with some of the comments. I know I will have more to face along the journey, but I am building a toolbox of responses.
Cost is the other big hang up for many people on this diet. Yes, the medical tests and supervision is pricey and yes the shakes and entrees cost money. The gym, training sessions, new clothes all cost money as well. You know what else costs money? All the bad food I was eating. All the medical bills I paid. All the unproductive hours where I couldn’t focus and didn’t get things done that needed to be finished. And losing my life day by day to my obesity was the most expensive part of my life. So yes I have depleted some of my savings but I also know I am saving money in the long run. I also know that the improved quality of life is worth the investment. And honestly, I just cut out a bunch of crap I had been wasting it on. Even at happy hour prices those beer and french fry orders add up!
Over the last six months I have been on the road more than half the weekends. I have attended galas and other social events. I have run multiple races. Attended family events. Tried a variety of fitness opportunities. Struggled through exhaustion and stress. Celebrated life and mourned loss. In other words, I have lived. And I have lived “in the box.”
I will be honest. It has not always been easy. And it is getting harder. Because as I see results and feel stronger, I question why I am still in the box. I miss outside food. I feel like I can take a cheat meal… But I won’t. As long as I stay in the box, I am working towards my final goal. This time is truly different and I don’t want to give myself an excuse to halt the journey before I finish it.
I am on a lifelong journey of living the best possible life I can. I believe in myself and my inner strength. And while life happens, I am building skills to pursue health and happiness in spite of life obstacles. It takes dedication and a sense of purpose. But it also takes faith in whatever diet program you choose to pursue. The HMR Diet does work, if you put in the work. I am #HMRStrong.
Why Marriott’s response to racism in their hotels matters
Stepping away from weight-loss for a post and addressing an issue pertinent to some of the other themes of my blog. Something that has been bothering me for awhile but was magnified in recent months by an issue that occurred at the Walnut Creek Marriott in February as well as the response from the parties involved.
Before I begin, I should probably disclose that I am a white woman in my early to mid-thirties. My husband is black. Honestly, being part of a mixed race couple was never something that seemed out of place to me growing up in California. Maybe I am just lucky to have awesome parents who took every opportunity they could to educate me about racial, gender, and cultural sensitivity. Obviously it’s also because I am not a minority, but I never realized just how much microracism existed in our society until I started dating my husband.
When I first learned about the female Marriott employee ignoring the black high school students and educators on the elevator, I was frustrated and upset. I was angry that someone had made my husband and colleagues as well as high school students feel like they were second class citizens. That they were not worthy of a friendly smile and greeting by a member of the hospitality industry.
Here’s how this situation SHOULD have worked out. The woman, when faced with what happened and how it made people feel, should have acknowledged that what she did excluded people of a racial minority. She should have verbally acknowledged that her actions were hurtful. She should have sincerely apologized for the action and the emotional response it caused. What I have learned over nine years is that micro racism isn’t always intentional and even someone with good intentions most of the time can still be a perpetrator of micro racism. I am willing to admit that I too have at some point committed an act of micro aggression and may not have even realized it at the time. This “more subtle, casual form of bigotry” occurs daily and is sometimes so subverted that neither party is aware until the damage is done.
The problem is that the employee didn’t seem to think what she did was wrong. Based on the reactions from management, neither did they. My husband was stopped in an open lobby when it was convenient for management but then not allowed to have the conversation where he had been stopped. He felt confronted publicly but then could not react publicly per management. And in other moves, rather than attempting to arrange an actual meeting about the situation with the black coaches and students, management went to the white organizers to arrange a meeting, bringing another act of micro aggression into the mix.
The problem is escalated and the entire process drawn out, each step another reminder of the otherization committed by this employee. However at every step, no one at Marriott appears to acknowledge how the actions of the employee left their guests feeling.
The denial of racism by Marriott is racism. It is the refusal to recognize the feelings of customers. It is ignorance of how microracism is just as racist and perhaps more damaging than overt racism. And it leaves a sour taste in the mouths of all who learn that the customer isn’t always right if the customer has dark skin.
Because education is important to me, let’s examine some responses that Marriott could have made in addition to the individual employee. First is by going back to corporate roots. According to a letter sent to my husband, Marriott has a long history in dealing with diversity. It sounds like this individual employee (and then the management) should get some retraining. If the member of management had apologized, offered his contact information for follow up, and then acknowledged the stresses and emotional otherization along with arranging for follow-up training for the employee, I am certain in speaking to victims that this would have served as a more appropriate reaction.
When management failed, corporate could have taken similar steps to examine the incident and rather than dismiss the customers, examine the training being given at a corporate level regarding microracism. If employees and management don’t think it’s a “big deal” then there is something more that is wrong that just the initial incident. And then let the customers know that you are following up on the review of the training.
A hospitality company that fails to recognize the emotional harm inflicted by an employee is one that does not care about it’s guests. That’s not the message Marriott probably wants to send to it’s customer base. But when micro aggression goes unchecked and otherization of guests occurs by all levels of the organization, it is unfortunately the one we are left with.
Compliments and the Weight Loss Journey
Weight loss is an incredibly difficult journey. Limiting food. Working out. Avoiding temptations in the Gap. It is a daily struggle regardless of what diet you are on. And at some point, you have that moment where you wonder if it is even worth continuing the struggle.
Enter the compliment.
Starting about 6 weeks into the start of the HMR program, I began to have people notice that I looked different. And at three months, people didn’t hold back their observations.
“Wow you look great!”
“What have you been doing?”
“You are disappearing!”
“Be honest, how many pounds have you lost?”
I have been wanting to write this post for awhile and the topic just keeps growing. I could probably write a book at this point. But I wanted to limit it today to look at some of the positive and negative effects of receiving compliments along the weight loss journey.
There are negatives?
Quite a bit actually. I have been struggling for months holding back responses to some of the compliments I have received both because I struggle to accept praise but also because some are just thoughtless. For example, a coworker who you aren’t close to walks up and says “Wow! How much weight have you lost this week?” It catches you off-guard. It defines your interaction by asking for a number. It treats you not as a person worthy of talking to but rather a “let’s get to the point, you look better and I want to know how much better you look now by placing a number on it.”
Asking someone who has lost weight “how much” is asking them to quantify a struggle into something we are told shouldn’t be our driving force. Week after week I get on a scale and sometimes I get a big decrease numerically and some weeks it’s barely a blip. Asking me in a week where I worked out hours every day, followed the diet to the letter, and the scale doesn’t respond is absolutely discouraging. Because you stole my other accomplishments away from me. I felt like a rockstar, and now I *only* lost a pound.
Additionally, why am I now getting your attention? The number of “good for you” type compliments I have gotten have gotten to the point where I asked my husband outright “do they know how condescending they sound?” He explained that most people don’t know what to say, and many aren’t able to take on the challenge themselves. They think it’s complimentary but the compliments come out sounding backhanded like I am a good puppy who is following orders and it’s about damn time I took care of myself. Because all of those previous times I struggled and was less successful weren’t worthy of the acknowledgement but this time I deserve praise. “Good for you girl. Sit. Drink a shake.”
It’s hard for people to respond to big changes involving sensitive subjects like weight loss. I completely understand. And in many instances, compliments are big motivators! But don’t come up and pinch me and tell me how skinny I am getting (yup that’s happened) and stop trying to quantify my accomplishments. I will tell you my personal number if I feel like we are in a place where I can share.
This weekend was a tipping point for me with regards to compliments. I am at an event where I am seeing people who I haven’t seen for a couple of months or more. So I spent the week mentally preparing for reaction. I got my hair done as a reward for hitting 75 pounds (to be more specific, that’s 76 pounds lost since November 13), I brought some of my new clothes that I feel comfortable in, and I mentally talked myself through how to accept compliments, no matter what form, with grace.
This weekend is also a struggle because of the delicious foods and lack of time for physical activity. Tournaments are like that. Super intense. Lots of responsibility. Constantly on the go. And they keep you going by fueling with high calorie tempting goodness.
A positive of the compliments is that it keeps me motivated to stay on plan. In the past, when I started getting compliments, I would get complacent. I would slack on “the diet” because I was “looking good” so it didn’t matter anymore. However on HMR it’s different. Still on the Decision Free diet, I would have to completely derail and go out of “the box” to slack. And knowing how far I have come and how far I have to go, I don’t want to slack. So reframing the compliments as motivation to continue has helped me stay in the box and avoid temptation. As I learn to accept the positive motivation behind the compliments and ignore the pinching and quantification, I can channel the encouragement behind the comments and use that positive energy.
I am #HMRStrong and I can do this. I appreciate your compliments but I also know that success doesn’t rest on your feedback. It requires my internal motivation. But I accept your positive energy and I will continue to learn to reframe those who may mean well but may lack an understanding of my struggle.
“Thank you. I have been working hard. I am healthier.”
Losing *only* two pounds … A 19-week reflection on the HMR Diet
Last night was my 133rd day staying “in the box” on the HMR Decision Free diet.
On my first night of class, my health educator showed us a graph. It showed data that the longer a person stayed “in the box” (eating only HMR food), the higher the likelihood they would stick with the program and the average amount of weight lost. The data included everything from the probability of success if you “cheated” the first week all the way up to 19 weeks.
So I bought a small white board and decorated it with permanent marker after calculating how many days were in 19 weeks. I then used a white board marker to update the number of the board. And then I set that board where I would see it every time I entered the kitchen. I also kept some helpful tools within reach, as you can see in the photo.
The first few weeks, it was struggle each day to stay in the box. But knowing I would have to reset that number was motivation to keep going. And changing the board felt like a triumphant win!
Eventually, I stopped updating each day and would change it every couple of days. However on a difficult day, the visual was a good reminder of how far I have come and how I didn’t want to reset the board after so much work.
Today is my 134th day on the diet. I still plan on keeping the board alive, but I am in the process of setting new goals. Goals to keep me going.
Because I can’t rely on the scale for motivation.
When I get on the scale at the clinic, I try to imagine what the new number will be. In the beginning there were huge jumps most weeks. Some were two or three pounds but many were four to six. And I knew logically that it would slow down as I had less to lose and my body adjusted to a lower-calorie diet.
The last three weeks I have lost one pound, four pounds, and then two pounds. In the real world, losing seven pounds in three weeks is a big deal. And I know I would have been so happy on previous diets with that loss. Yet last night, with a two pound loss on the scale, I felt disappointment.
Practical me knows that this process is going to be an ultra-marathon. That it’s a lifestyle change. That it won’t happen over night. And that I have works for 19 weeks but I knew going in that it would be a much longer process. Finally, I know that I have gotten stronger and have had so many non-scale victories that I should dance with joy.
Today I begin the process of setting new long-term non-scale goals. From fitness goals I am currently working on, to food based goals I need to figure out. I am determined to succeed one day at a time.
Calorie Counting Anxiety
Every week in HMR class, we are given assignments. And I have wanted to write about this particular assignment for weeks but get anxious whenever I try to confront it. Today, coming from a class, I finally feel strong enough to share.
Funny. My writing stopped again for 24 hours. See, the assignment that got my nerves in a bundle and me from writing? We had to log calories in addition to what MR we were eating. I became aware of what I was trying to forget.
The first week on HMR, I kept calculating calories. But it was all in my head. Before the end of the week I had committed to memory how many calories each MR was. It took at least another week before I had stopped the mental calculations, to try to embrace the “more is better” and avoid depravation.
So when this assignment was initially given, I was hesitant but committed to it as fully as all of my other class assignments. I refused to give anything less than 100% to my homework.
However as the week went on, I began to notice how hungry I was. Instead of choosing a higher calorie entree, I would opt for a lower calorie one — even though I really wanted the original entree and it was only a fifty calorie difference. I was avoiding having the extra shake, because it was another 160 calories.
The point of the assignment was to figure out water math. And to show us how a few extra MR in order to stay satisfied and “in the box” would not have an adverse impact on our weight-loss. However, even though I knew what the purpose was and I understood the positive elements of the assignment, I found myself restricting my caloric intake to my bare RX of meal replacements. I was starving and cranky and anxious.
I am incredibly good at limiting calories. Initially. But upon reflection, the restricting always ended in a binge. A derailment. And then the end of that bout of dieting. My anxiety over numbers would end in my hands flailing and waving a white flag. I would give in… and then the numbers and the feelings of failure would haunt my dreams.
Doing this assignment brought back the anxiety and the old behaviors, with one exception. Attending class that week and talking to others in my class and to the nurse and health educator… I realized that while I can’t handle the numbers now, I can handle the HMR diet. Because those 50 calories don’t matter in the long run if it keeps me from the 500 I would pick up at a drive-through.
I don’t have to count calories any more. At least not for now. And that relieves a lot of my anxiety. I know there will come a day I will have to live outside of the HMR meal replacement box but by then I will have the tools I need to do so confidently and will be able to face my fears and conquer my restrictive habits. I am working towards a balanced approach to health and I am proud of all that I am learning and doing in the process.
Am I Powerless?
Everything I have read and heard about addiction says that the first step is admitting you are powerless to your substance. Whether it be food or an illicit substance, you are supposed to admit and accept that you have no control and these substances control you.
You see, I am a food addict by every definition I can find. I love the way food makes me feel. It is a comforting blanket on a stressful day. It is a celebration when something exciting has happened. It keeps me from being bored and it entertains me when I cook. When I feel lost or when I feel found, food is there with me.
I don’t think I had this addiction my whole life. I don’t remember food always being the comfort it is today. I have spent a long time reflecting and trying to figure out where my relationship with food changed. It’s a worthy exercise if you are as overweight as I have become.
It started in high school. Between the stress of overcommitting myself to a bajillion activities to the insecurity of transferring midyear, I found comfort in comfort foods. There was nothing more comforting that a bowl of potatoes, microwaved until baked, and smothered in butter and cheese. When I felt lonely, cheese was there.
When I entered college, the comfort I had found became something I needed. I did not always have the best choice in significant others and the first guy I dated in college was a doozy. Without reliving the pain, let’s say that I quickly turned to food and the need for comfort lasted over two years. Looking back, I know all of the mistakes I made, but at the time the pain of the day was minimized by a two cheeseburger extra value meal.
After this extended period of bingeing to comfort, my relationship with food was secure and my weight battle was full-force. This is reflected when I lost a significant amount of weight early in my career, only to pile it back on in what seemed like the minutes after a family member was critically injured in a car accident.
I acknowledge now that I have a sordid relationship with food. I have an addiction to the way food makes me feel. And that addiction has significant power.
But I am not powerless.
Admitting you are powerless is a cop-out. It means you can never interact with the substance again because you cannot control it. And that would mean that I could never eat again… something that is actually impossible to do and survive.
However, I can reduce the number of decisions I have to make about food. Stepping away from our complex relationship in order to exam it and correct it. We will always have a relationship. However maybe our relationship could improve.
I am not powerless. Recognizing and acknowledging I am addicted to food and doing something to change this addition is the opposite of powerless. It takes strength and motivation. It takes desire and action.
I am not powerless. I am empowered.
Just Show Up
Just show up.
I have read so many fitness “get slim in six easy moves” “lose 5 lbs in 3 days” “the secret food that will make you skinny” diet secret containing magazines that I should be invisible by now because I am oh so thin.
But wait. Apparently reading about getting thin, about shedding those unwanted pounds, is not the way to actually lose the weight.
Somewhere between the pages of those glossy fitness model pages, I lost my minutes.
I lost the time that I could find… to get thin.
And while inspired by the pages,
I lack the motivation to do the movement.
And time and time again I pledge that TOMORROW, I will go to the gym.
I am too tired.
I have too much work today.
The house is in shambles.
Someone might spoil that TV show that’s on tonight.
I just don’t want to go.
So many reasons to go home, curl up on the couch, and zone out…
Imagining the thin within.
Somewhere along the line, I lost my motivation. And my motivation is really good at playing
However… through all I have learned about myself. About how I function. And about how we work. I have one thing to say.
Pack that bag with the clothing you will need and go to the gym. Just go. Get dressed. Sit there. Drink a latte. You don’t have to exercise.
But if you are like me, you will find yourself on that elliptical, or in that aerobics class, or lifting weights… or on a bad day maybe you will just walk at the slowest speed possible on the treadmill.
You will find your movement. Your motivation.
I am a debate coach. I can convince myself to do just about anything. But something the only thing I can really do is show up.
Being present is motivation to move.
Movement is power.
Power gets you through the day.
Maybe you will do more than just show up.
I am very good at losing weight. I have lost probably over two hundred pounds in my lifetime. Perhaps even more.
So I should be incredibly skinny right? Practically see-through?
And yet I am near my highest weight ever. Having put on most of the 5% I was so motivated to lose over the last couple months.
Losing weight is a long process. It’s one that has to happen slowly as habits are formed and the body and mind work together to find the healthier self. To develop a new fitter being.
My mind and body don’t like each other. They are like the Hollywood couple that everyone thinks should be together, who make and sell movies together, but self-destruct when the cameras aren’t around. Sure they get along in the short term, but only so they can say their marriage lasted longer than Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries.
I self-sabotage. No matter if it’s Weight Watcher points, calories, food lists, prepped meals, meal-blogging etc… I can last for a short while and have amazing results. But then something inside of me clicks off. I make poor food choices, stop meal planning, go for the easy, tasty caloriebombs, I go out with friends and don’t choose the healthier option. I intentionally, whether I know it is intentional, pack those pounds right back on.
I can blame my job. Most of my friends console my weight gain by proclaiming “I don’t know how you do it… If I did your job I would weigh so much more than you do!” Thanks? But some of my best losses come from those months where I don’t come up for air. It’s like having a weekend off from work is also a weekend to eat and drink whatever is in front of me.
So I can’t blame my job.
In reality, I don’t know why I give up. It’s not an all or nothing world. And it isn’t like I tell myself that if I screw up for one meal, I have screwed up the week. I don’t say “fuck it” and eat crap and I even attempt to balance the crap with the good.
Maybe my metabolism is shot to hell. Maybe one bad meal is all it takes to pack on the weight again?
That’s obviously not true. Even if my metabolism was slower than a teenager getting ready for school in the morning, one meal is not going to reverse weeks of hard work. I may not be a doctor, but I know enough to know that isn’t how it works.
I don’t have an excuse. I am just bad at following through when it comes to me. I am a great advocate for my students, my friends, and my family. But when it comes to advocating for myself to myself on what I truly need and not just what feels good at the moment, I fail.
It’s easier to reward myself than to punish. It’s easier to take the route of tasty instead of the route of steamed veggies. It’s easier to socialize or chillax on the couch, rather than get up and stay in motion. It is easier to stay fat and kill myself one calorie-bomb at a time than to recognize that I deserve better and work to give myself what I deserve.
My birthday is just a couple of weeks away. Another year has passed where I pledged to take care of myself and another year has passed where I strived, succeeded, and then thrown that hard work away.
I don’t have a solution to stop the self-sabotage. But maybe finally I have awareness.
Pick one thing.
It’s true. I haven’t blogged in forever. And I really don’t have an excuse. I have LOTS of excuses.
The truth is that I am finding it very hard to manage everything. Healthy eating, exercise, work, planning a wedding, and finding time to relax. From tournaments almost every weekend to the siren call of happy hour specials pulling me away from the fresh veggies in the kitchen.
Lately I have felt like a juggler, trying to keep everything in the air without dropping any of the balls. In the process I have minimized my healthy eating, barely work out, and am tired all the time.
So what’s a girl to do? Life isn’t slowing down any time soon. Lots of post-season tournaments and debate camps to work and the wedding is less than four months away.
However, I have been slowly taking back control. I am trying to avoid being superwoman. I have declined plans. Simplified my diet. And am forcing myself to stop comparing myself to those people who seem to have perfect lives.
Finally, rather than set big goals, I am picking one thing and focusing on it. Trying to complete a task before beginning the next one. Focusing on the single stroke and not the final picture.
It’s tough. But I think it’s going to work.
Why all the hate for 2011?
As another calendar year comes to an end and a new year anxiously waits for it’s turn with us, I can’t help but get frustrated at the number of people who have done nothing in the last few weeks but shit on 2011 like it was a roadside portapot.
I get that life is frustrating. Bad things happen. Not everything goes the way we plan.
But really the ENTIRE year sucked? I sincerely doubt every waking moment in 2011 was filled with terribleness.
I am not trying to be ultra peppy or a total cheerleader, but if you don’t take a moment to celebrate the good things that have happened in your past year, how can 2012 ever live up to your hopes and dreams?
So take a minute and write down 12 good things that happened in 2011. One for each month. I challenge you to go into 2012 celebrating your past and taking that positivity to ring in the new year!