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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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?
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 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!