Saturday, September 29, 2007

Eat more, weigh less?

An inspirational tale of the Amazing Shrinking Woman (again)

Last Thanksgiving I had terrible back pain - I mean, the flat in bed, gorked on muscle relaxers and pain pills kind of pain - the second episode in two years. My doctor looked me straight in the eye and delivered the bad news: to avoid a lifetime of back pain, I had to take off at least 50 pounds. *sigh* I've known that for years. I guess I wanted some professional in a position of authority to say it aloud. Be careful what you wish for, right?

5 years ago I tried the South Beach Diet and had some success. I bought the book, joined an online support group, and ate so many veggies, fruits, and whole grains that I knew every bathroom in town. Intimately. At 5'3" I was a pretty hefty gal weighing in at 180 pounds . After a year, I was down to 145. I felt (and looked) mighty fine. And it was easy. I still wanted 15 more pounds off, but somehow lost my way and wandered off The Beach. A little cheat here, a little over there, and the weight crept back. Finally, in pain from recent hand injuries (and feeling sorry for myself) I nibbled and noshed my way back up to 178 by last Christmas. Damn! Why, oh why, did I do it? I knew how hard it was to lose the first time. Now I have to do it all over again. (You can see my "before picture" in the previous California post in all my double-chinned glory.) But then things started looking up.

I have this new motivation - I mean, who wants to face their doctor to explain why she hasn't followed prescribed advice? Another New Year's Resolution: I went back on South Beach, back to the online support group, and followed the diet like a person possessed. I had a little success in the beginning, but I'm five years older now, and things aren't as easy as the first time around. I lost weight, but it was so slow, about .2 pounds a week. (FRUSTRATING!!! I want it off now!) I watched my calorie intake like a hawk - keeping it to about 1200 per day. I felt full and the weight came off. I was also exercising like crazy, taking a 60-90 minute walk six days a week. This diet, this mission, was my life, not my way of life.

By April, I lost 12 pounds. Then, my weight stabilized. I managed to chip off a couple of pounds only to see them reappear a week or two later. Over and over, I lost, then found, the same damned two pounds! This went on for about 3 months. I mean, I tripped over myself to do everything "right" and I was getting zero results. Mid-July, I called my doctor's office to get a checkup - what if my thyroid was misbehaving? They fit me in to see him the following week. But, I wanted answers now. I asked a friend, a personal trainer and nutritional counselor, what she thought. When I told her all I was doing, she said "I don't think you're getting enough calories." Waddaya mean?!?

Apparently, with all the exercise, I needed to eat a lot more calories every day - my bod was in "starvation"mode". This was so counterintuitive! The trouble was that I wasn't all that hungry. So, after my dear friend dropped this bomb on me, I whined to her "you mean, I need to choke down another 500 calories?" After threatening to smack me (most folks would love to eat an extra meal every day, right?), she said if I followed her advice for two weeks, I would get that hungry. I did talk to my doctor later. After hearing my routine, and my friend's advice, he agreed with her. He told me to eat 5 times a day and to have at least 1600 calories every day. He also ran blood work to check my thyroid, just in case (these were normal, thankfully). Finally, he told me: "make this part of your life, not the whole focus - just relax".

I followed the new plan, added strength training to my cardio, and stopped taking it all so seriously. You know what? Good advice! I've lost 24 pounds and feel fantastic. I still have 23 pounds to go to my goal, but now I can see it's gonna happen. With this recent loss, I've been sporting the "jail house" look. My jeans are falling off my hips - I really need to get new pants ... or a belt! I've given myself a queen-sized wedgie hoisting them up all day. Now that's attractive! (not)

I've weeded out my "fat clothes" with a brutal eye (sent most of them to the thrift shop). I'm under doctor's orders, so I'm not going to get fat again, right? Every 10 pounds I shed, I "go shopping" in my skinny clothes box. I try things on; if they fit, they get hung in the closet. If not, they go back in the box to be tried again at the next 10 pound mark. When they do fit, I'm super critical, thinking: "OK, it fits, but how does it make me look?" If the answer is anything but "sizzlin', smokin' hot", it's gone. The end result: I have a wardrobe that is versatile, age-appropriate, and makes me look and feel mah-velous.

I can see this will be a lifelong effort to maintain. Worth it for sure!