Friday, August 5, 2011

When Your Weight Sneaks Up On You

I’m wearing a repeat outfit today, so I’m sharing something personal instead of an outfit post. I’ve talked about my weight here before, but I’m really going to get into it today. I started writing on the train this morning, and just kept going. You can read it all or not, but it’s good for me to get it out there. I finally unpacked our scale this week, and was a little shocked to discover that I’m at my absolute highest weight ever. I knew things had gotten bad, but I’m about 15 pounds higher than I was the last time I thought my weight problems had hit rock bottom. Clearly, this isn’t my first struggle with weight, and I’m starting to think it won’t be my last.

I was a chubby kid from about the time I turned 10, but it was never a real issue until I finished college. During my last semester and after graduating, I was living in Michigan, bored and depressed, and decided to join Weight Watchers on New Year’s Eve, 2003 on a whim. I was having a hard time finding a job and was in a bad relationship, so I devoted all of my energy to weight loss so that I’d have something else to focus on. I lost 60 pounds in about 5 months and reached my goal weight just in time for my 23rd birthday in May of 2004. Although Weight Watchers worked for me and was pretty easy (ah, to be 22 again!), I swore that I’d never make myself go through that again. The weight was off for good.

At my goal weight, June 2004

Two weeks later, I moved to Chicago. I gained a little weight upon moving here, mainly because my office used to have free food around the clock, 7 days a week. I was working crazy hours and didn’t have a lot of money, so I took advantage of said free food. But even eating lots of junky cafeteria food, snacking and having ice cream every day (seriously, they spoiled us back in those days), I only gained about 15 pounds back. I was doing WW on and off a lot for a while, so my weight managed to stay pretty much under control.  By mid-2007, right around the time I met Fella, I had put a total of 40 pounds back on.

August 2007, leaving my office

I was still happy with the way I looked so I didn't do anything about it until early 2008, when I had gotten back to my original weight, and when Fella encouraged me to join his gym and exercise with him. A gym? I had used the Recreation Center in college, but hadn’t really exercised since. But I got into it and, once again, dedicated myself to weight loss. I lost about 40 pounds with exercise and Weight Watchers by the end of 2008.  I kept that off for about 6 months.

Fella and I totally not looking at the camera in Colorado, 2009

I think I would’ve been okay at this point if life hadn’t taken a really unexpected turn. Fella started getting sick a lot in early 2009. Toward the middle of that year he was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, but the stress of it all – him being sick all the time and, for a while, not knowing what was wrong with him – totally knocked me off the wagon. He’d get sick suddenly, and he couldn’t eat when he was sick. I’d often have cooked dinner for the 2 of us and rather than just save the leftovers, I’d split his meals with Jude. Meanwhile Fella had been on medicine for his condition, but he kept getting worse. I stepped in, found him a new doctor since his old one seemed unconcerned, and she recommended we meet with a surgeon right away. In the end, Fella ended up having 2 major surgeries in early 2010. He needed a lot of care, so my boss let me work from home for about 3 months last year to take care of him. Fella had lost so much weight from being sick that he needed to be fattened up. I could’ve joined him in loading up on fats, but instead I constantly cooked 2 meals: one light meal for me, one not so light one for Fella. A new gym opened up around the corner from us at about that time, so I decided to join so I’d be able to get out of the house a little bit each day. Throughout 2010 I got into a really good exercise routine, and I started losing weight and slimming down again. I was still about 20 pounds overweight toward the end of the year, but I was so happy with the way I looked then.

November, 2010

I kept the routine up in the beginning of 2011, but once we started the process of buying a condo and moving, I no longer had time to go to the gym (which is ridiculous looking back – I didn’t have an hour? Really?). On top of that, we were so busy, we were eating out a lot because there just wasn’t time to cook, and frankly, I didn’t have the energy for it. I guess that’s how the weight all came back. And then some. I know waiting 2 months to even unpack the scale was a mistake, but I guess I didn’t want to know. I can’t even remember the last time I weighed myself before this week. I was weighed a couple times at doctors’ appointments this spring/summer, but I just assumed their scales were off. But how could I have missed this? I take my picture everyday for goodness sake, and none of my pants fit me right now. I guess I was in denial, or didn’t think it was so bad.

This isn’t a self-esteem thing. I love myself and know I’m awesome at any size. But I do know I could look a little better. In addition to appearance, I need to keep my weight under control for health reasons. My mom and her sister are both diabetic, my maternal grandfather died of a heart attack in his mid-40’s, my mom has high blood pressure, and my dad had an angioplasty at the age of 50. There seem to be a lot of conditions I have a predisposition for, and the risks get higher if you’re overweight. I do get my numbers checked every year, and so far they’ve been good, but I want to keep them that way.

I know I can lose weight because I’ve done it so many times before, but I still need to figure out how to maintain it. I mean, why do I keep doing this to myself? Why put myself through all the trouble just to gain the weight all back? I’m trying things a little differently this time. Rather than rejoin Weight Watchers for, I don’t know, like the tenth time, I joined a site called Spark People. There, I can track what I’m eating and how much exercise I’m getting, but without those pesky membership fees. It offers many of the same features I found on WW, but rather than tracking points, you’re watching calories, fat and carbs. Counting points was pretty easy for me, but logging my food was the real benefit of it for me. That helped me see what I was eating, and just how much it was impacting me. Spark also has a pretty big online community and is constantly running little challenges, so those resources may be helpful in motivating me and supporting my efforts. As for exercise, I made myself go back to the gym on Tuesday, and I went again yesterday, so I’m hoping to get back into a good routine there. My overall goal is to drop 50 pounds, and I’d like to do that by May, 2012.  I'll probably update periodically, but I promise this will be the only novel I write about it :)  I appreciate your reading this very, very long post.

22 comments:

  1. I wish you the best of luck with your goal. You may remember that I posted about weight gain just a little over a year ago when I was finishing up my dissertation.  I find it easy to gain and hard to lose, but over the past year, I have eaten (relatively) healthfully and run 1000 miles - including four half-marathons and a marathon - and worked out many times at the gym and on my yoga mat.  I have lost about 6 pounds. And I'm starting to wonder: what if this narrative doesn't end with weight loss? If it doesn't, I'm ok with that because I know that I am healthier than most people who are a couple of sizes smaller than I am.  

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  2. Can you link me to that? Depending on when you wrote it, I may have missed it. Perhaps you're building enough muscle to offset weight loss on the scale? I guess the actual number isn't as important as how you feel about it.

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  3. I support your goal for healthful habits, although you know that I think you're beautiful at any weight.  Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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  4. You have such a great additute about it...I love that you know you are awesome at any weight...wish I could say I felt the same about myself.  I am going to go check out spark fitness...

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  5. You are awesome! Good luck on your continued journey to health!!

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  6. First of all, you are totally awesome at any weight!
    Secondly, I've been there - I gained and lost the same 30 pounds for years :) When I realized I was up by 50lbs, I started to make some small changes and things have really stabilized.  Like you, I was motivated by a number of family heath conditions. Thanks for sharing :)

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  7. You know I totally understand your situation, as it very familiar for me! :) This is my highest weight ever, and it's killing me to be like this. Good for you recognizing the changes in your body, and for taking action. I am definitely cheering you on!

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  8. I'm also trying to figure out what it takes to maintain for good.  I lost 60 pounds in the early '00s.  My weight swings since then have only been by plus or minus 10 pounds, but right now I'm at plus 6 pounds from my 2003 low and (ulp) plus 13 from my 2009 low.  That doesn't sound like much, but the last 5-10 pounds are always the most stubborn and difficult to shift, and they really make a difference in how my clothes fit.

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  9. You know, stress releases a lot of hormones that make it virtually impossible to lose weight until the stress goes away.  It makes sense that you gained weight when you were so worried about your husband... and then buying a condo and moving.  All that really takes a toll, and its not the kind of stuff that a little deep breathing or light-hearted movie can take care of.  Have you considered adding yoga and/or meditation to your workout routine?  In addition to building strength and flexibility, yoga can really help get the stress hormones under control.  I gained nearly 20 lbs. while writing my doctoral dissertation, and as soon as it was done, and my life regained an even keel, I started losing a pound or two a month (I also upped the exercise and paid attention to my diet, but didn't cut out sweets or alcohol or anything drastic like that) until I was back to my normal weight ~ 2 years later.  

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  10. I know, I definitely thought of you when I was writing.  And reading all of your food posts has helped inspire me to eat a little better :)

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  11. Wow, and I had actually thought of you as someone who had maintenance all figured out!  Whenever I'd have a 10 pound swing, I'd brush it off as not being a big deal (part of that is that 10 pounds on a 5'9 frame isn't all that noticeable), which is how it snowballs for me.

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  12. I have tried yoga in the past.  I enjoy it, but when I don't have a lot of time for exercise, I tend to choose cardio/strength training over yoga because I feel like I'm getting more out of my time that way (whether or not that's actually true...).  But it may be worth finding the time if it'd help with stress.  Thanks for your thoughts!

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  13. What sort of small changes have you made?

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  14. Well, I think it's because my awesomeness has nothing to do with my looks.  But it did take a really long time for me to think that way.

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  15. Julia (Polkadotbikershorts)August 7, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    You have a great attitude about it - and I think that makes all the difference.  You look fabulous in all those pictures, but it's important how you feel. 

    I never really blogged too much about it, but I've certainly had my ups and downs with my weight and eating/exercise issues.  I too joined weight watchers (2004-2005) and I got results with it, but I couldn't maintain it.  For me (and I know everyone is different), I need a "who the f*** cares" approach and can't fixate on points/calories etc.  Because the minute I start to count calories I get way too obsessed and end up eating when I'm not hungry or trying not to eat to save calories (weird, I know). And I get into a binge/starve cycle, which is horrible.

    One thing I try to maintain is getting enough fruits and vegetables and getting exercise - and I tell myself those are for "health" not necessarily to lose weight.  For example, last night I was craving fetuccine alfredo so I made it, but I added a HUGE bag of broccoli and cauliflower to it. 

    Anyways, good luck! I'm not blogging anymore, but I'm still around and can lend support!

    p.s. I think we're moving into your neighborhood soon (or at least close to it), so maybe we could meet up for coffee or something!

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  16. Thanks, Julia!  I totally understand getting fixated on counting points/calories, etc. I need to do it at first so I can get a good idea of how much I'm eating v. how much I should be eating, but I'd like some kind of approach where I don't have to be so uptight about it too.  I was on track for eating lots of fruits and veggies, drinking lots of water and exercising until this spring, so hopefully I can get back to a good place there.

    And let me know about the move!  If you need any info about the area or anything, I'd be happy to help - I've been here for about 3 years, and Fella's lived around here for 6.  And you can always find me on twitter (ChiCohabitant) or gmail (aeshepherd).

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  17. Anne, this was a really courageous post - and I can completely relate.  I tried sparkpeople for a while, but have found myfitnesspal.com to be easier to use and really helpful.  I love reading your blog and best of luck!

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  18. Anne, I am also struggling with maintaining the weight loss. I lost a bit of weight last summer, but because of my thesis writing and, now, the job searching, the weight is just bouncing right on back. I'm working on changing my attitude, like not stressing out too much and making smaller changes instead of doing a drastic diet and exercise routine. I find that it's helping a bit. and I love sparkpeople, though I'll have to check on myfitnesspal recommended by one of the commenters! good luck, and please, do share what you find out/ decide to do!

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  19. Thanks, Rae!  I'll have to check out myfitnesspal - Spark was the first thing I found on google, and I didn't do too much research.

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  20. I think the main thing with maintenance is just -- don't let things snowball.  If I get back on a plan after only gaining 10 pounds rather than letting it go to 20 it's so much less daunting.  But that doesn't mean I can hold my weight steady at one weight without effort.  My body just wants to gain.

    Re:  counting calories and things, the plan I use is the Bodybugg plan -- it measures what you actually burn, so you can eat enough to maintain a deficit but not to feel like you're starving.  I found that so much easier to tolerate than Weight Watchers.  Just an idea if you want to try something different, but then you have to wear the monitor.

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  21. I think a lot of it for me is adjusting my thinking. If I gain 10 pounds, I don't really see it as a problem, but I should since it's just opening the door for more weight gain. I'll keep Bodybugg in mind if I'm looking for a change. I'm always hungry on WW, so that's not really for me anymore. I've been tracking calories for the past week. It's a little more effort than counting points (though now I can just repeat my "favorite" foods), but I'm not starving all the time.

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  22. Managing stress was a big one for me - I actually changed jobs and that helped a lot. I also stopped eating low fat/diet stuff... sounds counter intuitive, I know ;)

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