Sunday, July 30, 2006

Starting all over again, again

Starting weight (not pictured): 311 lbs, 6/17/02
Ending weight (not pictured): 190 lbs, 10/15/05
Current weight: 220 lbs, and counting

I hadn't really thought about it before, but it's weird that I have no photos of my lowest points (emotionally, at 311 and physically at 190). I weighed about 300 in that first shot and exactly 214 (my records got better) in the last one.

Earlier this month, I weighed in at the gym and found that I was six pounds up from that final photo - 30 pounds heavier than my lowest point. I'm almost certain I'll be up five pounds more when I weigh in next week.

I'm starting this blog because I am afraid. I've comforted myself thus far that I did, after all, lose 120 pounds - the 30 I regained is peanuts in comparison. It's just that I can so easily see it all coming unraveled. It's happened to much better people than me. I've put this 30 pounds on all in the last 6 months, and the pace is just accelerating.

I'm at a loss to figure out what happened. Well, actually, I guess that's not quite true. What happened is that I only solved half of the equation.

I spent two years building a truly astonishing exercise habit, cycling, weightlifting, walking and eventually running and yoga. I exercised 2 to 4 hours a day for about a year and lost maybe 10 pounds. The reason? I ate to keep up with what I burned. I ate hugely, and I felt marvelous, as my leg muscles grew to resemble the hawsers of submarines and teen boys were forced to eat my dust on the local trails. I was eternally frustrated that all this effort wasn't causing me to drop any weight, but stubbornly refused to limit my eating in any way. The thought of going on a diet brought up vivid memories of my mother staring daggers at me during family dinners out as I put a second mini eclair in my mouth; of being taken aside at summer camp and told that 'we know the food is good here, but maybe you should be eating a little less of it'; of being sent to weight watchers at age 13 and listening to the group leader crow that she was able to fit into her daughter's jeans, and looking around at all these women, none of them fewer than 25 years my senior and knowing that there had to be something wrong with me that wasn't supposed to be wrong with anyone my age. I had reached my full height and weighed all of 155 pounds.

As was bound to happen, near the end of my epic year of exercising 2 to 4 hours a day at 300+ lbs, I started feeling really good about myself. I met a boy - we hit it off. We never ran out of things to talk about, and whenever we ran into eachother, by mutual consent, we completely monopolized each other's time. When the project we were both working on ended, we exchanged contact info. I said something flirtatious, assuming I was on pretty steady ground. His face fell, and he left in a hurry. I never heard from him again.

Of course I'll never know for certain what exactly that boy was thinking, but at the time, I was convinced he was rejecting me because of my weight. That was it. I buckled down and forced myself to look at the way I was eating. I learned to count calories, and experienced a giant revelation: 500 calories worth of carrots have exactly as many calories as 500 calories worth of cake. I kept up with my regular exercise regimen while learning to cheat the system like a pro - my daily food logs totting off lists like "breakfast: two pieces of a birthday cake, lunch: Necco wafers, potato chips, dinner: peanut butter and jelly. The pounds just rolled off - 80 of them in 2004 alone.

Does this sound sustainable?, I don't think so either. It required something amounting to religious fervor to keep eating this way for as long as I did, and then it evolved. Instead of keeping faithfully to my 2000 calorie daily limit, I began to seesaw, eating wildly one day then "making up" for it, either by piling on extra exercise or by cutting calories to the bone the next day. My hips started to feel like they were disintegrating, and I started to have muscle spasms that would leave me writhing on the floor for an hour, unable to move, but I would still do my hour long bike commute into the gym in the morning, where I lifted weights for 45 minutes; my two, brisk, 15 minute walks during my breaks at work, then the bike commute home then an hour-long walk or run at night. My body, running mostly on cake and salad, lacked what it needed to meet the demands of my exercise regimen. I overate more and more often, desperately balancing my eating sprees with days of exhausting overexercise and starvation. I managed to keep that up for six months without any significant or permanent gains - then the whole thing spun out of control.

It actually speaks well for my sense of self preservation that I couldn't keep this up. The only way a person can sustain a binge/starve cycle like that for any length of time is by maintaining a totally obsessive mindset, one that crowds out or trumps almost everything else in your life. You have to believe that the payoff will be so huge, or the penalty so severe that the unsustainable must, by main force, be sustained. But then I lost 120 pounds - I stopped paying the fat penalty, and I stopped dreaming the fat fantasy. I could shop in regular stores, sit comfortably in bus seats and restaurant booths and order anything I wanted off the menu without feeling judged. I started "getting out there" again, and realized I couldn't blame my weight anymore when things went wrong.

So here I am, 35 years old with the halcyon shores of thin-land rapidly receding in the distance. I still had maybe 30 pounds to lose when I hit my lowest weight. Now I have 60.

I can see the road back clearly, but I don't know if I can keep to it, and I am worried I will have to go further away from my goal before I can start losing again. For, you see, what I have to do is learn to eat like a sane human being: no more meals of cake and Necco wafers - less starch, more protein - less sugar, more fiber. That's the missing half of the equation. I'm convinced that once I make that change, and make it permanently - just the way I did with the exercise, which I now love and can't do without - I will, at least, stop gaining weight.

The problem is that I flat-out hate to cook, and I know diddly about it. I also live alone, and am a vegetarian, and I haven't the first clue how to shop for myself and pace my eating/cooking so I don't waste food but always have what I need available to make a healthy meal. I don't have appropriate cookware - I don't know what appropriate cookware even is. I have some vague notion that I should get a wok, so that's on my to do list for next week.

Anyway, I hope that logging this journey in blog-land will help keep me on track, and I would love it if this blog helps put me in contact with other people who are struggling with similar things. The sad fact of the matter is that there is rarely a happy ending to the weight loss saga. You don't get down to a size 8, take a deep breath and get on with your life, leaving the years of struggle behind you. But I do believe the way we go about it can make a difference, and maybe at least make it possible to take up permanent residence in thin-land.

So, here goes the bell for round 2.


Anonymous Bronwyn said...

Hi Mary,

I found you at Fatty McBlog.

It was interesting to see your photos, I just wish you'd had a white background so they were easier to see.

Wow, you do a huge amount of exercise!

I used to ride an exercise bike for 40 minutes a day (oh the constant pain to my posterior!). After _a couple of years_ of that daily exercise, I had gone down maybe a size in clothing - that's all!

After I stopped riding the exercise bike, my new clothes started to get tighter.

At a later date, I went for six months without eating any treats: no desserts, no softdrink (sodapop), no cordial, no fruit juice, no lollies (candy), just good heatlhy food & water.

After the six months, my underwear seemed a little looser, but I was wearing the same sized clothes as before I started, so perhaps the elastic had aged!

However, I don't seem to have grown any larger since then, or if I have, not by much.


9:30 PM  
Blogger V'ron said...

300+ down to 190 and then up to 220 or so, that's only a setback on what appears to be a successful (albeit longer than you expected) journey. sometimes, like good ol Akkasha, you have to take a break.

Yes, stick with the blog. I'm finding that going public with the struggle/battle/journey holds you accountable like nothing else does.

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Susan said...

The sad fact of the matter is that there is rarely a happy ending to the weight loss saga. You don't get down to a size 8, take a deep breath and get on with your life, leaving the years of struggle behind you.

Truer words were never blogged! Keeping the weight off is practically a full-time job. Plus you don't get the positive reinforcement of the number on the scale going down - you're doing well just to keep it steady. Sigh...

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Dolley said...

You also don't get the gratification and positive reinforcement of "Look how wonderfully well you're doing!" once you reach size-8 land, because the people you meet assume you were always that size!!

I worked out the way you do and more; my own regimen, unfortunately, also included lots of physical damage (broken bones, etc.), so I wound up not able to keep up the same pace and vigor of activity. Oh, how bitterly I remember the time I was shopping and thought to myself, I have got to stop buying size 8s; they are just Too. Big. Those days are gone, and not likely to come back. Ironically, at 5'6" (thank you, compressed disks - I was taller once, as well), I'm at your goal weight, and darned bitter about it, too. I kept the weight off for about 8 years, and the damage and the surgeries just made it impossible to keep up the kind of workouts I was doing. The sad thing is, broken bones and all, I miss those workouts. The workouts I do now are not the same.

One of the things you might consider is going through the Net to see what recipes other vegetarians have posted, because there are vegetarians who cook. In fact, go to tomatonation dot com, and check the archives - I know Sars is vegetarian, and has linked recipes in past posts.

People who don't have problems with their weight generally are utterly lacking in understanding, and, too often, compassion, with people who do. And the "born again" weight losers are often in the forefront of the lines of the intolerant, carrying lit torches.

Good luck, Mary; here's sympathy and support from the trenches.

9:01 AM  

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