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.)