Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Season of Struggle

Trying to squeeze all the way the heck out of 2016 like pushing out a 2016 pound baby. Seriously, the deaths, the fighting - both national and international - you'd think my holiday struggles and weight loss struggles would pale in comparison. But as carrying around your own personal bag of rocks goes, they feel pretty heavy to me.

One year into my weight loss journey. 

The holiday season is a wonderful time of year, but it can also be extremely hard on people in many different ways... like weight loss, for instance. How in the world are you supposed to stay focused and lose weight with people baking cookies and cakes and pies the whole month? Stores stocking aisle after aisle of candy. Break rooms at work filled with sweet treats from well-intentioned co-workers and clients. One of my personal favorite treats for this time of year is pumpkin bagels. I used to stalk all of the stores in my area starting at the end of August until I found them. They're so good! I've loved pumpkin since before it was cool, so when it started becoming popular and everything had a pumpkin version, I was in heaven. Until this year. I knew I had to stay focused. I knew myself well enough to know if I strayed it would only harm me. I didn't want to stray. I have come so far and nothing is worth undoing that. So I tried to avoid that area of the store as much as possible. But that's not always easy, especially since all the junk food is always prominently displayed - especially the fall and holiday items. There comes a time in your journey (multiple times, actually) for better health that you have to make a decision. You have to decide what's more important - you and your goals or having a bagel. Now, I'm not saying I will never have another pumpkin bagel again. I have not (and will not) have any this year because I feel I am at a crucial point in my journey and my goals are more important to me than that bagel. They aren't going to help me get where I want to be. So when I would see them in the store I would think of them as a deterrent. No, seriously. In my head, they became little demonic animations trying to lure me, 'hey Bud, c'mere' like you picture when a drug dealer is trying to lure a little kid. Whatever you have to do, right? And don't let the little voices say "but they're only here once a year." They'll be back next year. Count on it. That's when I'll decide whether I want one. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. I think most of the pumpkin stuff is going away so now it's time to avoid holiday treats. I'm looking at you, Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes. I did make some low carb pumpkin muffins that were pretty tasty! The recipe needs a little tweaking, but in time I think it could be great. If you find healthier alternatives to your holiday favorites it helps so much because you don't feel deprived. Getting healthy shouldn't be about feeling deprived. I think so often people don't want to start the weight loss journey because they focus on everything they have to give up. Instead, you need to focus on what you are gaining. Trust me, it is so much better than what you're leaving behind. 

So, why was I so strict on myself? For a few reasons. One was because after I lost 100 lbs, I plateaud. I didn't just plateau for a little while. I plateaud for 2 months. Two months of "doing everything right," switching things up based on numerous articles I read and from listening to people more knowledgeable than I am. Sometimes your body just doesn't cooperate. And, in my research, I learned that often times after you lose a lot of weight your body goes into shock and it is normal to plateau. It doesn't make it any less frustrating, but it IS understandable. I mean, I've spent my whole life with loads of extra fat on my body so it makes sense that my body is going to freak out on my journey to lose it. During this time I have also been battling some injuries and haven't been able to workout as much so I figured I shouldn't throw anything else 
in the mix that could slow down my weight loss. Honestly, I wasn't that tempted by the treats because they weren't better than the change in me this past year. Yes, they looked good when I walked by them. I know they taste good. But I'm focused on my goal and want to do whatever I need to do to get there. The photo below is one of my favorite sayings because it describes how I feel perfectly. 

I had a lot of people ask me how I stay focused when I hit a plateau. A couple of things keep me focused. You have to decide this change is a lifestyle change. This is not a diet. If you diet, that means eventually going back to your old habits, which will put you right back where you started. So to me motivation wasn't really a problem when I plateuad, because I knew this is my life now. I did have a hard time while on the plateau because I still have so far to go and it was so frustrating to see my weight going nowhere (or going up, which was even worse). I am not a patient person so I have a tendency to want all of this weight gone NOW. But I have to take a step back and realize that I didn't gain it all in a day (even though it feels like I did), and I won't lose it all in a day either. You can see below that my journey has had its peaks and valleys, like all. But it is on a downward trend overall and THAT is what's important. 

However, even when your weight is plateauing, you are likely still making progress in other ways. This is where non-scale victories become so important - and often are more satisfying than what the number on the scale says. One thing I encourage everyone to do before changing their life is to take measurements. I did not do this, and I really regret it. I have a rough estimate of what my waist measured before I started, but that's all. If you take measurements you can see just how much your body is changing so much better than the scale. Something else I did while plateauing was trying on clothes that used to be too small for me. I knew if clothes were fitting that didn't fit a few weeks ago, obviously my body is still changing whether the scale says it is or not! One of the very best feelings I had during my plateau was when I went shopping for something to wear on my birthday. Before I started losing weight I was a size 30/32 in some brands, but places like Lane Bryant - who only carries sizes up to a 28 - and Torrid I would have needed a 34/36, which didn't exist. (Torrid does now carry this size online, but it's very recent.) So when I went shopping for my birthday I expected to be in a size 26/28 now. I gathered up several things in that size in Torrid and went to the fitting room - and every single one was too big! I was so ecstatic! I went and got things in a 22/24 and nearly fell over when they actually fit me. I haven't been a size 22/24 since I was probably 16 years old. The picture below is a dress I loved and could actually zip up in that size. The shrug I'm wearing is a bit big - it was a 26. I ended up buying the shrug - one size smaller. I'm also showing a shirt I tried on that day because I was just so excited to be in that size! I do apologize for these being horrible quality phone pics.

Today is a special day for me because today marks one year since I decided to change my life. One year ago today I was 402 pounds and miserable. As many times as I have attempted to lose weight before - and have even been successful on occasion - I've never stuck with it this long. I'm not exactly sure what happened. What made this time different than the other millions of times I've attempted to lose? I wish I knew because I get asked that all the time. If I knew I would shout if from the rooftops. I would love to give that "magic potion" to several of my loved ones because I see how beaten down they are and I know exactly how they feel because I was there just a year ago. Maybe it was the fact that I am in my 30s and realizing I'm not getting any younger. I already wasted my teens and 20s hating my body and feeling unworthy of happiness and hurting like a 90-year old. I didn't want to spend the rest of my life feeling that way. Or maybe it was the fact that I realized I had wasted all this time and even though the amount of weight I had to lose seemed overwhelming, the time is going to pass anyway. It doesn't matter if it takes me 5 years to get to my goal weight. At least at the end of that 5 years I will have accomplished my goal. If you don't start then 5 years down the road you are still going to be unhealthy and miserable.

Left: July 2015 (7 months before I started losing weight); Right: December 7, 2016

I can tell you that every single person has it in them to do this. I am no better than anyone else out there. I'm not doing anything spectacular or spending a ridiculous amount of money. I just decided I had enough and got started. I am not perfect and I didn't know nearly as much when I started as I do now. I took baby steps doing things I did know I needed to do and learned as I went. And here I am one year later, 117.8 pounds lighter and feeling so much better. I still have a long way to go. I weigh 284.2 pounds so I am still heavier than a lot of people's starting weight - but I have come so far that that doesn't even bother me anymore! I am excited about the future because I can only imagine if I feel this much better now, how much better I will feel after losing another 140ish lbs. I have a rough goal weight in my head, but will decide on that when I get closer and see where I feel best. The number isn't important to me, how I feel is.

Seasons change as life changes. As I watch the Earth shedding its leaves and readying itself for winter
and for the renewal Spring will bring, the parallel strikes me. It's the shedding, resting, strengthening and renewal my body is going through. It's in winter right now, the hardest part, but without it, there is no stronger, more beautiful tree in the stronger, more beautiful me. It's a process. As I theoretically stand here before you, I feel as if I am standing naked in a room full of people. Standing here bare, letting everyone see what I would have been mortified to share just a year ago. I also sometimes feel bare like the trees because I am running out of clothes! But that is one of the fun parts of this adventure. 

And for all those who've been asking, stay tuned for my next post with all the details of what I'm eating, what I do for workouts, how often I schedule "splurges" etc. If you follow me on social media you already know a lot of this because I try to share pics as I go throughout my day! If you want to follow along where I am more active daily, check me out at the links below. (They are always on my right side bar as well.)



Thursday, September 8, 2016

I Lost My Best Friend

Okay, okay, not REALLY, but I did lose her weight! As of Saturday (September 3rd), I am officially down 100 pounds! That means I lost a baby hippo! Also, a foal! Or, if you need another visual, ten 10-pound sacks of potatoes!

So, what does this translate to on a person? Well, let me show you...

That before picture is one that's really hard for me to look at. I didn't know I was THAT big until I saw that picture, as well as another one of me sitting from the same trip (I will show you that one another day). It was shocking enough to see pics of myself standing, but this one showed just how much fat I had on my body. Sitting next to me is my aforementioned best friend and I was taking up 3-4 times more space on the couch than she was. I remember seeing this photo pop up on Facebook and promptly untagging myself and hoping as few people saw it as possible. But looking back I realize THEY already knew I looked like this. Everyone else could see me. I was the only one who couldn't see what I really looked like. 

So, 100 pounds later, what has changed? Everything and nothing. I'm still Ashley - but I'm not. It's sort of a weird feeling. I can't tell you how many times in the past few months I've said "who am I??" because my thinking and habits have changed SO much. My thought process has changed. I don't have to have a piece of cake in order to have a good time at a party. I mean, let's be real. Of course I still love cake. But I passed up cake this past weekend at my grandmother's birthday party. I could have had a piece and it wouldn't have been the end of the world but I felt so proud of myself afterwards and that feeling is so much better than any piece of cake. I never really felt proud of myself 100 pounds ago. 

I get up an hour to an hour and a half earlier than I used to just to have time to walk before work. I am actually thinking once I lose more weight I might like to try running. I really have myself wondering if an alien has invaded my body at times because I used to only think about running if the house were to catch on fire. Or if The Doctor showed up. I would have tried to run for that (because you know running is always involved when The Doctor shows up). If you don't understand what I'm talking about then you're obviously not a fan of Doctor Who and I am so, so sorry. But to think of running every day voluntarily? Not even in my realm of thinking. 

I don't feel like I'm 90 anymore. 100 pounds ago everything hurt. All the time. Not just when I was walking, but even when I was just sitting I would often ache. My body was not meant to carry all that around and I was slowly crushing it. I still hurt a lot, but it's a different kind of hurt. Yes, some of it is still from my body carrying too much weight. It's usually muscle aches or my plantar fasciitis flaring up. But I will take that over how I used to feel any day. I used to have to fight to stay awake when cropping pictures for blog posts. I know now that that was the sugar crash from my beloved Coke (which was both my comfort and my worst enemy). I've not had any instances like that for months and it's been amazing.

But the best part? I am starting to actually love myself. I have another post planned expanding on this topic, but it's an amazing feeling. I don't have a big head, but I do feel confident now. I am still 300 pounds but I feel so much better than I did when I was 300 pounds before - because my thinking has changed. I am actually comfortable in my own skin. Am I 100% happy with my body now? Of course not. I still have about 160 pounds to lose. And I don't think there's any person walking the planet that is 100% happy with their body. That doesn't mean we can't love ourselves. 

I used to avoid pictures at all cost because I hated the way I looked. Now I don't mind being in pictures and I'm even taking selfies! (Another "who am I?" moment!) I took the selfie above over the weekend and it was the first selfie I've ever taken that I actually thought "wow, I look pretty good!" My favorite part of the pic is I'm actually starting to see a neck! An actual neck that's not 52 chins!

Weight loss isn't easy. In fact, it's one of the hardest things I've ever done. But it is so worth it. No cupcake, no can of Coke, no bag of potato chips can compare to this feeling. Every walk taken, every sore muscle, every drop of sweat is so worth it. 


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Head Games

On this crazy journey I've been on for the last few months, I've come to realize that weight loss is almost all in your head...if not 100%. At least it is for me. 

I have tried countless times in my life to lose weight and have had times where I was fairly successful (though never as successful as I am now). Yet every single time, I ended up reverting back to my old ways. What the heck, Brain? Y U sabotage me? 

I've been trying to figure out what makes this time different than all the other times and it is definitely my brain, no doubt. My head is "in the game" this time. I'm all in. 

The most successful time I've had prior to now was before a wedding where I was a bridesmaid. But I did it for the event, not for ME. Once the event was over, I went back to my old ways - even though I didn't think I would - and not only gained back what I'd lost, but a lot more with it. And trust me, it didn't need friends tagging along.  And now that I think about it,  I think that's the very definition of yo-yo dieting! Just NO!  

And that is not what I'm doing this time. This time, I'm changing my life, my brain, my thinking. Myself. Will I have times where I "splurge" - absolutely. This is a lifestyle change, not a diet, and to be able to eat healthy the rest of my life I will need to have times where I can have cake or cookies. If I deprive myself of everything, I fail. I know me. If I think about not ever having another piece of cake, it's all over. This fat lady has sung.  

And I have learned something else about myself! There is a huge difference in me planning on splurging vs. eating something on a whim or out of "peer pressure." 

It really hit home after a graduation party a few weeks ago. But I have to go back to the Las Vegas trip to explain. Before I went to Vegas, I had splurges planned. How I would allow myself to "cheat" but I hesitate to use that word because if you plan it in and stick to the plan, is it really cheating? Is that a trigger word? Negative internal conversation that hinders progress? Possibly. Anyway, I knew I'd be drinking Cokes and eating things I don't allow myself normally. And that was fine. It was planned. And I stuck to it and didn't overdo anything but still allowed myself to eat and drink things I don't normally. All in moderation, right?  And I was mentally prepared for the scales when I got home. And I handled it well! I was sort of proud of myself.

Fast forward a few weeks to the graduation party. I formulated my plan. (LOL that sounds ominous, but I assure you it wasn't an evil plan, just one piece of cake to celebrate with everyone else.) And then it happened. Of course, we were at a Mexican restaurant. I love Mexican food. And it started. Everyone else was eating all the things. So I said aloud something to the effect that I didn't know if I wanted to splurge or not. And maybe I said it aloud secretly hoping someone would encourage me. Looking back I think that's exactly why I said it aloud. And I love my family to pieces but they're nothing if not obliging. So people started saying things like "oh go ahead, you DESERVE IT!" Encouraging me, assuring me that one meal wouldn't hurt anything. And I caved and had several things I shouldn't. Once I started, I just went totally off the rails. But it wasn't like Vegas where I planned it and knew it. I felt dirty.  Like a weak-minded "fat person" again.  I felt like a failure. 

For me, weight loss is so tenuous, and so much in my head that this was not good. I ran the gamut of emotions. I failed. I suck. I'm weak. And then I got a lot angry with myself and a bit angry (as much as I'm ashamed to admit it) at them.  "Well THEY caused it! Don't they know it's hard enough living there with everyone else eating whatever they want, 95% of which I can't have?  Don't they know things like 'one bite won't hurt' and 'you deserve it' are detrimental to me?" Of course, they didn't cause anything. I did. Me. But it took a few days to gain some perspective and start figuring out how it happened, why it happened, why it was so different than Vegas for me mentally. And of course there were people there who were seeing me 95 pounds lighter for the first time and I felt pathetic shoveling all the wrong things in my mouth in front of them. That was another clue for me - what others think about what I put in my mouth does not matter. At all. And because I allowed myself to do that, unplanned, and because I felt like I failed, all those old thoughts crept back in. 

Honestly, it scared me more than anything. I was terrified I was going right back to my old ways. Just like every other time. 

I guess what I'm saying is that as amazing as the weight loss is - continues to be - the most amazing part is what has happened, is happening, in my brain. My thinking. Seeing that I am stronger than I thought. That I can succeed. That even with freak out moments and glitches and slip ups I can still overcome and get my head right again. I'm learning so much about myself on this journey that the weight loss is almost secondary. Almost.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Who Ate My Psyche?

No, seriously. Who or what ate my psyche? Because this person inside me is not this size so I can only assume I was swallowed whole by something. 

Am I the only one who ever feels this way? I don't think I am. I'm pretty sure nearly every overweight person out there feels like a "normal-sized" person trapped in a cocoon of fat. 

Weight loss is a topic most of us have thought about at least a time or two. For some of us, however, it's a thought that never goes away. It's a way of life. My name is Ashley and I am one of those people. I have been overweight pretty much my whole life. But that's changing and I would like to share my journey with you. 

I have been thinking of starting this blog for a while, but it's not easy to put the thing that's caused you to hide your whole life out on display for the world to see. And that's exactly what being overweight has done. I allowed it to cause me to miss out on life. I wasn't just a "little chubby." I was obese. Technically, I still am obese. I hate that word. I remember the first time I saw it in correlation with my name, it was like I'd been punched in the gut. I was a teenager and I had been labeled as "obese." Over the years I've decided labels are really bad. Because I had been labeled "overweight" my whole life and then "obese" as a teen, I got it into my head that I was DEFINED by those things. I realize now those labels don't define me. Yes, I have a lot of fat on my body, but I am not fat. "Having fat" and "being fat" seem like such minor differences, but they are a huge change in your thoughts and the way you feel about yourself. 

Having fat on your body should not define who you are. It's taken me a very long time to realize that. I am a kind, generous, caring, sarcastic, sassy, hot-tempered, stubborn woman. All sorts of good and bad things mixed into one. Those things are part of who I am and aren't likely to change. Having fat on my body isn't something that's a part of who I am. I can change that at any time - and I am. The experiences I had while suffocating in my fat cocoon helped mold me into the woman I am today, and for that I will forever be grateful. I have discovered a strength in myself that I never knew was possible. One that includes writing this blog post and putting my weight out there for the whole world to see. 

My highest weight was a number I never expected to see. It brought shame and intense sadness with it. I initially started losing weight in April 2015. Prior to that I hadn't been on a scale in years. I was depressed and I felt like I was in a hole I would never be able to crawl out of so instead of doing something about it I kept sitting on my butt and drinking Coca-Cola because that made me happy. Happy for the moment anyway. What it was really doing was making everything worse and making that hole even deeper. 

In the photos below you can see a photo of me wearing the same shirt one year apart. A shirt I used to feel comfortable in now feels like I am wearing a blanket. The photos on the left were taken in July 2015, and I had actually lost about 10 pounds at that point (though I'm not sure any of that was even visible). The photos on the right were taken August 5, 2016. I didn't start seriously losing weight until December 2015, so even though there is a year between the photos, there is only about 7 months of lifestyle change represented. 

Left: July 2015/Right: August 2016

Can we just take a moment to laugh at the fact that my before pictures were taken at the M&M Store? That wasn't planned. I avoided photos of myself like the plague but this was during a trip to Las Vegas and my friends wanted photos, so I joined in. I knew I was big, but until I saw myself in these photos I had no idea just how big. You don't see yourself in the mirror the same way you do in a photo. I almost deleted them when I saw them, but I told myself no - you're going to want to see this someday. You're going to want to remember what you felt like on this day because you don't ever want to feel like that again. We were walking the strip in Vegas and since I was about 3-4 of everyone else I felt like I was slowing everyone down. They didn't act like that or make me feel bad at all, but I knew if I wasn't so huge I'd be able to keep up. There will be more about this trip in subsequent blog posts, as there is too much for this one.

Left: July 2015/Right: August 2016

The shirt that fit me just a year ago looks very tent-like now.

A few years ago I became friends with some amazing women. Women who loved me despite the fact that I was hugely overweight. This was a huge revelation for me because all of the friends I had grown up with ended up going their own ways. Some left in a very hurtful manner, some just because we grew up and life separated us. But since I had it in my head that I was not as good as everyone else because I "was fat," I contributed losing them to my weight. I didn't make any other good friends. I had my mom, we're very close. But your mom loves you no matter what, right? I had a family who loved me, but nobody outside my family who I could hang out with or talk to. So, when people started befriending me and liking me for ME, regardless of what I looked like, it was pretty amazing. I finally had a best friend I could talk to about anything and everything. I really didn't ever think that would happen. I think forming these friendships and knowing it was possible for me to be loved is what made me start dragging myself out of the hole I had been in for years. 

Me and my best friend, Sheila, one year apart.
Left: July 2015/Right: July 2016

When the time came that I finally decided I HAD to do something, I just happened to stumble on a weight loss story from a Facebook friend. She was a fellow nail art blogger, I didn't know her very well. She didn't have nearly as much to lose as I did, but even so, her thoughts before she lost weight were very similar to mine and they struck a chord. I commented on her status saying how her story inspired me and she sent me a private message offering me encouragement and tips. 

So, I decided I was going to get started. Then it came time to weigh myself. Regular scales wouldn't weigh me, I had to get an "extended weight" one. I don't think most people even think about needing a scale that goes past 300 pounds. Just needing one of those is an embarrassment. I remember stepping on that scale and not wanting to look down. Then I did and looked at the number in disbelief. 402. How in the world did I ever let myself break 400?! The last time I had weighed before this I was around 325. I knew I had gained some, but I had no idea I had gained that much. I was mortified. But I resolved to never see a 4 at the beginning of my weight again. 

I counted calories and lost 23 pounds over the course of the next few months (it was coming off VERY slowly). It took me about 3 weeks to get out of the 400s. Between being in my 30s and having some health issues, my metabolism seemed like it was now non-existent. I was very discouraged. I fizzled out and stopped trying as hard. I didn't completely stop, but I only half-tried. I gained back most of it in the latter half of the year. 

Then, I'm not sure what happened, but I just woke up one day feeling different. Determined. I had done the low carb way of eating years earlier (before it was a "thing") and had had great success with it. I had considered trying it earlier in 2015, but didn't want to completely give up my Coke. I had a serious Coca-Cola addiction and doing low calorie I could still fit in a can a day, which was the main reason I had tried low cal over low carb to begin with. But I was feeling worse. My health issues weren't going away and I was tired of not being able to move without hurting. I was a 90-year old in a 30-something body. I guess I had the "I've had it" moment you hear about. I weighed again on December 7, 2015 and was at 394.5. At least I hadn't broken 400 again, but I was pretty close. But I was adamant I was going to go down from here and not gain it back. I felt like I had flipped a switch inside. I am losing much faster with low carb than before, plus cutting out Coke and pretty much all sugar. The last time I weighed (August 6th), I was down 95.4 pounds, with a current weight of 306.6. I still have a very long way to go, but I have no doubt I will get there. I can't wait to get out of the 3s! The last time I was below 300 lbs I was probably 15-16 years old. And it's so close now!

I know I still have a lot of weight to lose. I am still over 300 lbs. (barely!) and weigh more than most people's "befores," but I feel so good! I sit on the floor a lot due to my job and it was so hard to get up at 402 lbs. It is so much easier now, and I know will just continue to get easier. But, maybe most importantly, I feel confident. Never in my life have I felt confident. I never understood how other "plus size" women could feel confident. While I still want to continue to lose weight and improve my body, I get it now. I am starting to love myself just how I am and that's the biggest revelation on my journey so far. 

I hope you'll follow along on my journey with me.  I'd love to break out of our fat cocoons together! 


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