A few weeks ago, I wrote a post talking about gaining weight over the last 16 or so months while training for three different marathons. I kept jumping into cycles of trying to lose weight during these months, only to end up gaining, as I would find myself needing more nutrition during training, but rather than control the needed increase, I would just eat whenever I wanted. It wasn’t planned nutrition, it was just eating to eat. And this failure to plan meant the scale just kept going up.
The NYC Marathon is over. I finished and will write more about that amazing adventure later. But as I promised myself weeks ago, I hit the reset button on November 9. And I will be sharing this journey with you in an effort to hold myself publicly accountable.
One of the realizations I have had over the last 18 months is that I did not have a system in place to track my food that worked for me. There are dozens of ways of keeping a food diary and I had tried many of them – from various apps on my phone to paper logs. I loved the HMR Program application for my phone, but it became difficult to track outside foods, and so I would only track the meal replacements and fruits/veggies. Which meant lots of outside foods would creep in. With other applications that tracked calories, I would find myself looking for the lowest calorie options, and not the most nutritious or filling options. And with paper, I would forget it at home or wouldn’t take it when I went to social events because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself (and would inevitably forget to log). But I loved the paper log because it allowed me the freedom to just write everything I consumed, and not have calorie anxiety or the judgement of many of the free trackers to causing me to avoid logging.
You will find a new tab on the top of this blog that is a page with a Google document embedded in it. I have this linked on my phone, where I can have the ease of electronically logging, while having the freedom of my paper log. And I have chosen to make it public – because I think sharing food logs is helpful for accountability but also to share ideas with each other about what works and what doesn’t work.
I am taking this reset in stages, recognizing going cold turkey doesn’t always turn out well for me. So the public log is part of this first week’s steps. And I will continue to add in healthy behaviors each week and share them with you as I commit to them. Most of the nutrition based will revolve around the healthy behaviors I have learned in my time with the HMR Program, because they work.
The second goal of this first week is to work on crowding out calorically-dense foods by intentionally increasing my fruits and veggies. I am shooting for nine servings (using HMR measurements) of fruits and vegetables per day, every day this week.
I will also be adding in new physical activity programming in the coming weeks and can’t wait to tell you more about it along with the dietary changes. Step-by-step, day-by-day, week-by-week – using what I have learned along my journey to get rid of this excess weight while also recognizing and celebrating the significant weight loss I have managed to maintain. I also promise to try to post some pictures here (although you can also follow me on Instagram where I definitely love to share pictures!)
What works for you to maintain your weight loss? Do you have a secret strategy for success? And if you are struggling to lose weight, what is something that you are finding difficult? I’d love to hear from others about your successes and struggles!
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!
During my journey through Core and Phase One on the HMR Diet, I nourished my body with packaged entrees, shakes, soups, and oatmeal. I lost a significant amount of weight. And during all of my classes, I would be reminded how important it would be to use these and other variations of “meal replacements” to continue to maintain weight loss once I transitioned to Phase Two.
It makes logical sense. These are pre-portioned, nutritionally-balanced, lower-calorie options to keep you satiated and nourished. You could have two HMR entrees and an HMR shake for the calories in a lot of fast food kids meals. And you would be much fuller for a lot longer!
However, as good a student as I was during the weight-loss process, I harnessed my inner teenager and rebelled a bit once I transitioned. I eschewed “meal replacements” in favor of “real food.” And I fought a battle of what is normal and “got tired” of tracking and other habits I had created during the previous year. And I did it all during the busiest months of the debate season where I was on the road almost every weekend.
From November to early April, I regained 20 of the 130 pounds I had fought so hard to lose. I had let the Gap push “meal replacements” out of my life meal by meal instead of embracing “meal replacements” and the role they play to maintain a reasonable calorie intake.
Over the last six weeks, as the debate season has wound to a close, I have struggled to embrace the habits I know will help me maintain my weight loss. But I realized that one of the hardest habits I have had is this notion of a “meal replacement” replacing a “meal” and during a recent health class, I realized why.
Another student who had transitioned from Phase One was complaining about the idea of consuming “meal replacements” and how she thought it was only temporary. She didn’t want to continue to make them a part of her life. She wanted to eat real meals. I knew exactly how she felt. But I also knew exactly why she shouldn’t kick them to the curb.
I have drastically increased the number of “meal replacements” over the last six weeks. But I have taken a new approach.
They aren’t “meal replacements.”
They are “decision-free meals.”
Not to be confused with the Decision Free portion of the HMR Diet, I have spent a significant time reflecting on why these 300-calorie or less meals that have 10 grams or more of protein are such a vital part of weight management.
It’s because you don’t have to make a decision! You can add veggies and/or fruit to these otherwise complete meals and you don’t have to portion things out or ensure there is a balance of protein/carbs/fat. The balance is there for satiety while the portion-control helps keep the over daily calorie consumption down.
However it’s the notion that these decision-free meals replace a meal that I have struggled with. Calling these complete meals a “meal replacement” triggered two things for me:
- I am missing out on something. When I am “replacing” a meal with a “meal replacement” then I am not getting an “actual meal.”
- I am on a diet and not embracing a lifestyle. Using the same technical terms I used in weight loss to describe my portion-controlled decision-free meals now makes me feel regimented in a way that doesn’t feel sustainable.
However, I am having real meals and it is sustainable. It’s all a matter of mindset and language shaping reality. When I did my post-graduate work on media reporting descriptors and the impact on female politicians credibility and electability, I found that subtle variations in something as minor as using the word “said” versus “argued” had an impact on voters. Language is powerful! An article in Slate Magazine explores just how powerful language can be in the justice system and policy making.
Thus, I will continue to embrace these decision-free complete-meals as a part of my fight against the Gap. They will be where I turn for a significant number of my meals because they are portion controlled and nutritionally balanced. But they will not replace anything. They are not substitutes. Because I am not missing out on anything anymore. I am embracing life in the best way possible.
Last night in my HMR Phase Two class, we talked about habits. What they are. Discovering our motivation behind the habit. And how to work to break bad habits while establishing supportive habits.
A topic that was almost too timely for me.
Earlier in the day, I had fallen into an old habit that was surreal but vaguely familiar as it is one I thought I had broken but found myself rediscovering recently. The habit of eating until I was sickening full with no real hunger preceding it.
I have had several recent occasions where I have found myself falling into this habit and I have been journaling to figure out the triggers. It was thus interesting to participate in last night’s discussion as it solidified what I had been realizing about myself.
The eating starts when I am tired and stress. I feel rushed with too much on my scheduling plate and what seems like too little time. I know I need to eat, so I grab supportive foods.
This falls in line with what some people suggest. That when you want to eat, you should replace non-supportive foods like potato chips with supportive foods like carrots. Because then you can satiate your hand-to-mouth desires.
However, what I am slowly learning about myself over this past year, is that this doesn’t satiate my emotions and I end up stuffing myself until I am sick to my stomach. Even with supportive foods that might not cause too much damage, I feel gross and still unsatisfied.
Which means I feel gross. I am unsatisfied. And now I still want unsupportive foods. And while feeling full should keep me from eating those unsupportive foods, I still go for them. And maybe right now it is just small bites. But it’s small bites of high calorie foods on top of the massive bowl of beets and the banana and the bowl of cherry tomatoes and it all adds up.
But it’s not all gloom and doom. Because as I reflect on my successes this past year, I realize that the times I have wanted to eat and I didn’t take the first bite, I was able to alleviate my stress and anxiety in other ways.
When I have been angry and stressed, I have found that dropping down and doing 5 push-ups (or more) immediately gives me a physical relief that is far more satisfying than a bowl of lettuce. And if I have more time, lacing up and going for a walk or run allows me to process my thoughts away form food.
When I am sad or feeling more of a low-energy emotional need to eat, journaling about why I want to eat helps me find the trigger without pulling it. And then I can figure out a solution to this need – do I need to feel pampered? Do I need a hug? Do I just need to cry without a reason?
While some people may be able to find a solution through replacing high calorie foods with low calories foods when they have an emotional trigger to eat, I am realizing that this won’t work for me.
So the new habit I am working to develop it to not take the first bite. To continue to work to recognize my triggers and to use my non-food toolbox to process my emotions.
Weight loss is a battle. It’s an absolute struggle and I completely relate to anyone who is fighting to take off those pounds. But I have discovered an even more difficult task.
Keeping it off.
On Monday I was working out with a friend and talking about how gross I felt. I began to review all of the terrible things I had eaten while working at a middle school debate tournament. For the first time in over a year, I had eaten at McDonalds and over those two days I had actually had TWO meals from the Golden Arches. And that wasn’t all!
What happened to me? What had possessed me, during a week I was trying to eat on the lower end of my calorie range due to an upcoming vacation, to eat so many of the terribly high calorie foods offered to me?
I started off each morning with a blended shake. I even packed meal replacements and vegetables. I was exhausted but I had a semblance of a plan. To stick with a Healthy Solutions “More is Better” approach because I knew it would be very stressful and I make terrible choices when I am stressed out. Something I have learned about myself over the last 13 months.
However, people offered me lunch delivery from the lunchroom. And I accepted. And then they went around taking McDonald’s orders. And I placed one for myself.
I realized upon reflecting on the weekend that I just wanted to appear “normal.” After a year of being on such a strict diet, I wanted to be like everyone else and eat whatever I wanted. I wanted to eat like they did.
Like a carnival funhouse, I was tricked by this notion of “normal” and I was the fool.
My concept of normal used to be “what everyone else is doing” but I realize that this isn’t what gave me success in my weight-loss journey. What gave me success was setting a new standard of what normal looks like. And when I reflect upon the weekend, other people turned down these various options in favor of something healthier. Which meant what I had perceived as normal really wasn’t the norm for everyone.
While I anticipate a gain on the scale this week, I have also gained something else. I have gained a better understanding of how I operate and the triggers that entice me further into the Gap.
In middle school we would joke that normal was just a setting on a washing machine. Maybe I just need to listen to my 7th grade self again. Embrace the idea of being me and not being like everyone else. After all, being me is what got me this far in life. And I like who I have become.
Last Fall, I wandered into a 6am gym class with motivation to get fit. To lose weight.
I left less than 20 minutes into the class in tears. I couldn’t keep up. I felt like I was dying. I was embarrassed and I swore I would never go back.
Before anyone blames the teacher, it wasn’t him. He was awesome. It was me. I was ashamed at how heavy and how out of shape I had let myself become.
I did this to myself.
No one made me fat. Yes, life happened. Shitty things have happened in my life. Things that motivated me to stuff my face full of fatty foods. But no one sat there force feeding me except me. Wonderful things also have happened in my life. Things I had celebrated by, you guessed it, stuffing rich fatty foods in my mouth. And I had all the reasons in the book why I couldn’t work out. Hello I teach six classes a day, coach after school, and work at tournaments at least half the weekends during the calendar year (many of which require travel). I obviously had no time… except the time I was sitting on a couch stuffing my face or at a bar drinking and (you guessed again) stuffing my face.
So I was ashamed. And guess what I did?
Bought myself a high calorie beverage from Starbucks and drove myself through the McDonald’s drive-thru for TWO sausage McMuffins (with cheese!) and TWO hash browns. And a full sugar soda. You know, to wash the candy coffee drink down.
Here’s the deal. I know someone reading this is judging me. And that’s fine. I am putting myself out there and expect to be judged. It’s the Internet for heaven’s sake.
I know there are people who are out there who think that obviously if we just stop eating like what I described, we would all be thin. But for those who know me, or who have struggled with their weight, once you start packing on pounds, even if you switch to healthier choices, it is still incredibly difficult to shave off enough calories to start the scale moving down. I didn’t eat every meal at McDonald’s. In fact, I ate a relatively balanced diet most days out of the week. But between the amount of healthy food (portion control) combined with the comfort food combined with a lack of activity, my scale just kept climbing.
I was ashamed when I left that fitness class. And I never went back.
November 13, 2013 — I left work and took myself out for sushi. It would be my last meal where I would stuff my face freely and not worry about the consequences. I enjoyed and savored all the foods I knew I would be leaving behind. I was bloated and uncomfortable when I left the restaurant and I drove across the street to the HMR health class.
Nine months into HMR, I transitioned from Decision Free to Healthy Solutions. And six weeks after that I began the transition to Phase Two. I have spent the last six weeks battling life in the real world. And I won’t lie and say it’s been easy. It has been two of the hardest months I have had in a long time.
Losing weight in HMR, if you stick with the plan and don’t give yourself excuses to cheat, is incredibly easy. You are isolating yourself from the real world of choice. It’s safe. It’s easy. And throughout the process, the classes prepare you for life in the real world.
Some people have made judgey comments about HMR because they feel as though they are “better than that” and people should be able to lose weight on “real foods” and you “don’t learn how to manage life” and “the weight will just come back on.”
Here’s my take on those who judge.
Wow. I have been wanting to say that for years. Because I have struggled with my weight since I was a teenager. And I listened to those judgey people for almost that long. And every time I attempted to “just eat healthier” and failed, I would spiral further and the scale would climb higher.
Maybe preparing all of your own food from scratch and choosing healthy options on every menu works for you. That’s awesome! I am not judging your lifestyle so please stop judging those who make the choice to seek outside help in getting weight off and learning to manage that weight.
But I live in the real world of balancing an 80 hour a week job. And I don’t have the luxury of just “finding a new job” or “taking some time for myself.” I have to work. I actually LOVE my work. I am changing lives. I LOVE being a teacher and a debate coach. And that’s not going to change.
So let’s stop the judging and the diet shaming. Because I want to tell you something.
I got the pounds off quickly. I learned a lot about myself and the real world in the process.
And although I alluded earlier in this post that the last six weeks have been a struggle, it’s not because of HMR. It’s because the real world is full of choices and I am battling between the person I was and the person I have become.
I am healthier. I am stronger. But there is still a part of me that wants to override the healthy choice machine and pick the worst item on the menu. So every meal is an internal struggle. But in reality, it has always been that way. Now the healthier side is winning more of those battles and the unhealthy side is protesting.
I will continue to attend the HMR Phase Two classes for at least 17 more months. They hold me accountable. They offer me support. And they continue to teach me valuable lessons about myself and about the world around me. Last night I tried to talk myself out of attending this “Total Athletic Conditioning” class. I needed sleep. I have been incredibly run down as I have not had a day off without teaching, coaching, or traveling with students since the first weekend of October. But then I remembered how I have empowered myself. How amazing I feel after getting in a workout. And how I wanted to celebrate life and not make excuses.
So I woke up and went to this 6am class described as combining “athletic sports drills, weight training and other techniques that are specifically designed to improve your speed, agility, quickness, balance and muscle definition. Start with a cardio warmup – progress into active stretching – move into strength and endurance – then some speed and agility – balance and core and added PLYO… You will enhance your cardio anaerobic threshold.”
Scary description right?
I was scared.
I remember running out of that studio. I remember hiding in the bathroom. I remember crying.
I looked in the mirror and began to follow the instructor’s direction. I felt strong. I felt empowered. I felt alive.
After the class, one of the regulars (who had been there when I ran out last year) approached me and complimented me on how well I kept up for my first class.
I mentioned I had tried it once before over a year ago. But I didn’t mention running out. I didn’t mention the tears. I just ended by saying I planned on coming back.
And I do.
Confession: This is not my first health & running blog.
In 2009 & 2010, I kept a blog where I thought I was anonymous. I was clearly naive. And I shut it down when I found out people I knew were reading it. I was embarrassed. I was slow. I was overweight. Who was I to write about health. My writing wasn’t me, it was a facade I was attempting to create. Which is why when I started Healthy Academic, I knew it had to be different. I had to be okay with being public. And I had to write from the heart.
But the funny thing about the Internet is that you can’t escape your past. And as I began to write my 2014 San Jose Rock and Roll Half recap, I wondered if those previous posts included a recap from 2009. I opened Pandora’s box and uncovered over 200 posts. And while I won’t bore you with many of them… I wanted to flashback to my first half. Forgive me for the writing. And for the choppy transitions. This was multiple posts I have edited to become one:
Oh I completed my first half marathon last weekend… no big deal…
Yeah I am lying…
IT WAS A HUGE FREAKIN’ DEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you have followed my blog, before my writing blocks the last couple months, you know I was training for this run. You also know I was told I would never run. So my goal this year was to complete a half marathon. Unlike NY resolutions that you have less control over, a half marathon was a concrete goal to work towards.
When I fell down the stairs in August, I lost motivation to blog, to cook and to take care of myself. I felt like I sucked. I couldn’t even walk down stairs for heavens sake! But I had already paid for this half marathon… so with the support of my friends, I started walking. My doctor had told me I was not allowed to jog at all or even walk long distances, especially if I wanted to make it through the 13.1 miles in October. So I spent September NOT training for my half marathon.
Sane people I want you to know that you shouldn’t attempt to walk a half marathon when your doctor says you will only be able to complete it if you DON’T train. I recognize this is not something that makes sense. I did some aqua jogging and lots of strength training that wouldn’t affect my lower body that was still resting.
But how did I make it through 13.1 miles (and that .1 becomes VERY important in this story)???
I set my original finish time at 3:15. That would be a little less than a 15 minute mile which is almost three minutes slower per mile than my latest 5k time but was a reasonable time for me since I hadn’t done one before. But after falling down the stairs, I forgave myself for the knowledge that I couldn’t perform at my best and I accepted a time of 3:30 as my goal. The maximum time allowed for the half is four hours and I was hoping I wouldn’t be bringing up the rear.
When the race started that morning, I had my intervals set at 1 minute jogging and 2 minutes walking. I figured that even though I hadn’t been allowed to really work out for the previous weeks, this was a starter interval so I should be okay.
And I actually felt like I was moving so slow! It was weird to force myself to walk in the beginning (I actually ran for a good five minutes before starting the intervals because I was embarrassed to be seen walking near the start). However, despite feeling slow, my body has improved over time. At mile 3, I was well under my 46:30 pace time if I was trying for a 15 minute mile, like my original goal (I was at about a 14 minute mile).
I felt amazing. Yes people were passing me for those three miles, but I was way ahead of where I thought I would be. AND I WAS GOING SLOW! Or at least I thought I was.
At the 10k check point I had slowed down to a 14:45 minute mile. However, despite slowing down and keeping those beginner intervals (and stopping for a bathroom break at mile 5), I was only about two minutes slower than my 10k in July. Seriously?!?!?! At this point I felt both amazing but also frustrated. I knew I would have to stay consistent in order to make it under my 3:30 time. I had also secretly gotten my hope up between miles 3 and 6 that I could come in at 3:15 or less. Silly overenthusiastic me!
Mile 7 came and went and I felt myself starting to slow more. I had the beginning of a couple blisters on the bottom of my right foot (right under my big toe) and I had stepped down funny on the left foot at some point. My feet were just starting to tell me they were sore and I wondered how I would make it 5+ more miles. Out of no where, a woman came up beside me and commented that we were running a similar pace. I suggested right away that we should stick together for awhile for encouragement.
It turns out it was her first half and she also hadn’t done a full 13.1 miles before coming to the race. We were both having trouble staying motivated and were experiencing pain in areas we hadn’t before (for example, I have never had a blister under my toe!). We stuck together and motivated each other to run when the interval clock beeped and to count down the last ten seconds of some of those minutes that seemed to never end. It felt good to have someone to run with and to keep me going. I felt like if I slowed down I was letting her down and she said she felt the same.
Mile 8 went pretty quickly, and I was feeling motivated. Which is why when I saw the medic tent, I didn’t want to stop and get either foot checked out despite the pain that was increasing.
At this point I will let you in on a secret. I still wanted to quit. I hurt and the idea of another 4 miles made me want to cry. But we kept pushing and pushing and pushing. At mile 10, I was at a 15:30 minute mile… not too shabby! If I kept that up, I would finish at about 3:23. That would be pretty awesome since I had hurt my back pretty badly such a short time before…
Ah yes. The back injury…
So I hit the ten mile mark and my feet and back were dying. I kept trying to remember that it was only a 5k left, but that wasn’t helping. I would have cried but my new running buddy was still with me, although it seemed like the slower I got, the faster she was getting.
At mile 11, I saw the medic. I didn’t want to stop but I needed to make sure I would be able to finish. The previous mile had taken forever and every step was painful. So I waved goodbye to my new running buddy and sidelined myself. Hopefully not for the day…
The medic asked me a number of questions and gave me an ice pack for my back. I was so focused on my back and also subconsciously didn’t want to be sidelined, that I forgot to ask about my foot pain. After sitting for ten minutes, I assured the medic I could indeed finish (in almost a tearful begging sort of way) and she told me I would be on my own as she thought I should probably not be finishing the last 2.1 miles.
She was probably right in hindsight. Those two miles were the most painful period I can remember in a long time. I cried almost the entire distance, continually stopping to stretch for the pain in my left foot, and to take weight off my blistery right food. The ice pack that I had to hold to my back while I walked also made for delicious ice chips to chew on. Walkers were passing me left and right and I felt like I was all alone.
Luckily my friend Zara was at the finish line with her family waiting for me. She had sent me a couple texts while I was with the medic and knowing she had stuck around long after she had finished the race just to be there for me was what kept me going. I couldn’t quit at that point!
At mile 13 as I wiped tears from my eyes, I saw Zara waiting to hug me. She walked with me part of that last .1 until we got to the fenced in finish area where she had to step off the course. With only a couple hundred feet in front of me, I was both embarrassed to be seen hobbling towards the finish and excited to be so close to the end. A woman came up behind me and mentioned she too was hurting and had been behind me the whole last two miles. She said that she knew if I could keep going then so could she. With ten feet left before the finish, I asked if she wanted to jog across the finish line. She agreed and we sprinted to the finish!
When we crossed the finish line we both winced in pain, gave each other props and dragged ourselves to the waiting medic tent. A medic then used saran wrap to attach an ice pack to my back before I headed off to get my medal. I pulled my shirt over the wrap and smiled!
I would go on to set a new PR in Vegas only 8 weeks later that would be my personal best until 2014. I would go on to volunteer at the San Jose Half at the finish line and for two years I made signs to cheer on runners, staying until the last athlete passed my signs. But I would never forget the way I felt during that 2009 San Jose half.
Processing Phase Two: An Academic Exploration of Life Outside “The Box” and the Creation of a “New Box”
I lived inside of a bubble for almost a whole year.
It wasn’t a real bubble. That would be a little bit strange. But it was a world where I had protection in the form of a very strict diet called HMR Decision Free. For those who have been reading for awhile, you probably already figured that out. But it still amazes me that for a whole nine months, I lived in such a confined world of food choices and after so long inside my bubble, I think I had forgotten what existed outside of that world.
As I transition from my bubble world to the real world, I have found that a lot of academic texts that were shared with us in health class have become much more salient for me. I wanted to use my journal (blog) today as an opportunity to explore my transition while linking some of these texts as well as next texts to help me connect my personal experiences with broader research. Because I have learned a lot in the last several months but it helps me know that I am not alone in this world full of food that we call “The Gap.”
Cornell researchers Brian Wansink & Jeffery Sobal found that we make more than 200 decisions about food every day. While we learned about this study in our HMR health classes, I dismissed it at the time, because those were not choices I needed to make at that moment. My choices were much more limited. Did I meet my daily minimum of shakes and entrees? Which of the limited selection was I eating next? Since everything was tasty and nutritionally calculated, it was rare I really felt compelled to make a clear decision.
When I transitioned to Healthy Solutions, the number of decisions increased. Suddenly I needed to decide how to get my fruits and veggies in. I needed to go into grocery stores to acquire said produce. I needed to prepare them and write them down and it became more complicated that just jotting down the same several items in my journal each day.
And because I thought I missed variety, I quickly delved into produce diversification. However, perhaps I should have stuck with buying only what I needed each day to minimize choice and over-consumption. Pierre Chandon and Brian Wansink found, in the Journal of Marketing Research, that stockpiling food leads to over-consumption. And so while I thought I was saving money and time in buying in bulk, I have since realized that I consumed even more produce just because it was there, not because I was hungry.
Fruits and vegetables are not the worst things in the world to overeat. However, the habits created could possibly transfer to other items. And so by discovering this in Healthy Solutions, I was able to minimize the total amount of food in the house and as I transitioned to Phase Two, I had to keep this in mind. Because even frozen dinners, that would soon supplement my HMR meal replacements, could be abused.
As I have transitioned to Phase Two, I have worked hard to keep my home environment and work environment as clean as possible. But I have learned a lot in the transition.
I learned quickly that I couldn’t be trusted to just show up in the school cafeteria to select a meal on the fly. The temptations of everything around me would add up. And even if I grabbed small portions of lots of healthier options, it would still add up to way more calories than I needed in a meal. And because I was now socializing at lunch instead of eating in my classroom, I found that I consume far more despite the fact I could have done with less. And I am not alone. According to John M. De Castro, a professor at Georgia State University, in the British Journal of Nutrition, “Simply eating with one other person increases the average amount ingested in meals by 44% and with more people present the average meal size grows even larger.” And so I either have a shake about an hour beforehand and strategically plan which stations I will go to and which I will avoid, or I bring my own meal and bypass the cafeteria entirely.
The social pressures to consume “normal food” have led me to stray from guidelines we are encouraged to follow in Phase Two of HMR. While traveling, I worked to fill my plate with mostly vegetables. I used shakes and produce and entrees to offset hunger, and I walked when I could. But eventually, I found myself caving to the pressure to consume the “special homemade meals” that were offered near where we were sitting. The food was free and the families were so eager to share. And it was delicious. But I have struggled to pull myself back into real life day to day living. It is so easy to justify everything as something special. And yet I lived for nine months where nothing was special enough to eat and I had a few events that probably were once in a lifetime events where I resisted!
I know it is easy to justify my choices. Not just because I teach debate, but also because in the Gap we are handed justifications to make bad food choices every day. However, although I may have had trouble with defining my life after Phase One, I am able to bring myself full circle. Brian Wansink writes in Physiology & Behavior:
“This Laboratory of Life experience – trying to change mindless eating in the real world – brings lessons of both discouragement and encouragement for those of us interested in helping change eating behaviors. On one hand, some results are discouraging because they show how some of our most robust academic findings are often not implemented by people because they do not recognize their relevance, they lack the motivation to make them work, or they lack the step-by- step encouragement and direction they might need. If we fear we are often talking only to other academics, perhaps we initially are.”
While I had some trouble with motivation during some of my initial weeks in Phase Two, I think my health educator helped me assess what a bigger problem was for me. I still hadn’t figured out what my new box was. I had done so much work to stay in the HMR defined box, and now that I “could have” things, I was having them because there wasn’t a box I had clearly laid out.
In the past few weeks, I have figured out my triggers. I also know that severely limiting myself forever won’t work, and I do need to eventually allow for life events to happen. But I also need to write out a box for myself that I can stick with day to day.
I am writing out my Phase Two box here. In published form. To hold myself accountable. While I know that eventually it may change, this is how it need to be for the moment. In order to continue my weight loss efforts and prevent the Gap from consuming me.
I will continue to allow shakes and entrees be a part of my life. The definition of a meal replacement being 300 or fewer calories with more than ten grams of protein. I will allow myself one bar a day but bars must be under 200 calories with at least ten grams of protein and cannot be consumed in my house (in other words, bars should be used as portable meal replacements when necessary, not a daily requirement). I will continue to enjoy fruits and vegetables as these are important for my nutritional health but also to practice “more is better” with. And I will limit myself to no more than one serving of lean protein outside of prepared meal replacements each day. Finally, I will allow myself no more than 200 “other” calories. This might be popcorn. It might be a small cookies. It doesn’t have to be limited in scope (variety) but it does have to be limited in magnitude (calories) and I must ask myself “is this worth it? will it keep me full? if it won’t, why am I eating it?” and if I am satisfied with the answers, I can have it.
I was asked as I transitioned where I saw myself in five years. What is my five year plan. And the truth is, I am still thinking about it. But I know I don’t want to regress. I want to move forward. To better understand and support my health with healthy behaviors. And I will continue to contemplate this as I learn to live inside the box again. The white board has returned. And I look forward to building up those numbers because I am #HMRStrong!
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.
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.”