January 4, 2016

There's no finish line

Even with everything going on, I mostly maintained my weight since my husband left. Up a few, down a few, down a few more, then back up. The same four or five pounds, over and over. Then, about a month ago, I got into a bad binge cycle. The scale shot up, clothes got tight, and it was hard to get myself out of bed - physically and emotionally.

I'd spend hours on the couch, just eating, crying, sleeping, watching TV. Then some days I'd go all day eating well, but binge right before bed. And I'd wake up the next morning, aching, feeling every pound holding me down, and think what is it going to take to get me to commit to recovery?

It was like this in 2010, when I started this blog and started my journey to health. I was 23 and deeply depressed. Everything hurt, always. I mean, from the moment I woke up until the second I fell asleep, my legs, my back - everything was aching. I never left the house except to buy food. I felt like a prisoner in my body, and I knew that if I didn't do something soon, I'd just grow and grow - I didn't think I'd make it to age 30.

Now, I'm facing 30, and my story between then and now is something I never, ever would have believed if you told me then. I want to create a better future for myself and for my son, so I'm trying my hardest to stay focused and consistent.

Exercise, surprisingly enough, is the easy part of all this. Food is my forever struggle, and so I'm making sure that right now, I am being extremely basic in my exercise goals (For January, it's just a general "be active 20x") so I can concentrate more on getting the food under control. I'm sticking to a meal plan similar to the one I used way-back-when - the one that worked. It's as restrictive as I need it to be - no entire food groups are off-limits, per se, but certain foods I know to avoid unless I am certain that it will not lead to a binge. Right now, there's no cheese in the house, and snacks are bought in pre-portioned single-serve bags. Some day, these will be easier to deal with. But right now, I know my body and I know my habits and I'm doing what's right for me.

Because that's it, isn't it? The best plan is the one you can stick with. The question I've been asked most often, especially after I'd lost all the weight initially, was how did you do it? tell me your plan! I got so many emotional, rock bottom emails from people saying they felt hopeless and trapped - exactly how I'd felt at the beginning - and they all wanted to know my plan. My heart ached for them - I'd been there. But what worked for me might not be ideal for someone else. For some people, it's paleo. For some, it's Weight Watchers. For others, maybe it's carb cycling or intermittent fasting. For me, it's being very regimented with my eating - I eat generally the same things every day, but rotate flavors/ingredients to keep myself from being bored.

It's not a glamorous answer, and it's not the magic pill answer everyone wants. But it's honest. I tried dozens of times to lose weight until I found the routine that worked for me. And I'm still learning. It's a process without an end. While I admire the sentiment behind the saying that weight loss is "a marathon and not a sprint," I think neither one is a perfect fit. Comparing weight loss to a race implies there's a finish line - and there isn't. If there's one thing I've learning in all this, it's that I am going to need to keep conscious of this for the rest of my life. I need to recognize situations that will lead me back to unhealthy behaviors. I need to stay active and watch what I eat. This doesn't end for me.

It seems daunting, but it's not as bad as it sounds. Looking back to 2010-2012: the first year, I actively lost weight. The second year, I maintained, but not always in healthy ways. Overall, though, that second year, I learned a lot about maintenance and how to find balance in my life with food, activity, and making sure that they're not my entire world. I ran a lot, I biked a lot, and I enjoyed a lot of good food in normal portions surrounded by good company. That's maintenance for me. Right now, though, I'm in that active loss phase again, so it's less fun and more restrictive at the moment.

Today is Day 4, and I can't begin to tell you how much of a victory that is, after the last few weeks I had, with one binge after another. Every day I'd wake up and tell myself just get through today. Just one good day. And every night I'd go to bed feeling like a failure. To be able to say I've strung together three and a half good days so far ... it's more than I've been able to say in a long time. Three and a half well-balanced, properly nourished, adequately exercised, no gimmick, no shortcut days. I weighed myself on the 1st and I'm trying not to be so completely addicted to numbers (at least not weighing myself every day), but I feel better already. Less bloated, less irritable, easier to wake up in the morning. I wish I could remember how good it feels to do right by my body in moments when eating fast food or pizza sounds like a better idea.

I'm trying so hard to stay optimistic - right now, it's easy, because I've been on winter break and my stress level is lower without as much work stuff. But this week, my husband is in town - and Wednesday, we're going to court to start custody stuff - plus all week, I'll be in the office getting ready for classes to start in a week. So it's absolutely all about to change. I'm keeping my goals for January simple:
1. Stay on plan with eating 20x
2. Meet daily water goal (96 oz.) 20x
3. Do something active 20x
4. No daily weighing
I think 20 out of 31 is a reasonable goal for getting back into a healthy routine. Since regaining so much weight, I've tried to jump fully back into goals I'd made at a much smaller size, and when I struggled with them, I gave up entirely. I can't run a half marathon right now. I don't think I could even do a mile. Right now, I just want to be doing something active most days, and I want to make sure I'm doing my best with the food. Especially with the semester starting again, I want a little leeway - if I made the goal "stay on plan every single day" and then I had a rough first week of classes, I'd be discouraged and probably give up entirely. Right now, 20s all around is a good goal. I can work my way up from there.

What about you? What are your January goals? (Or: do you make goals daily? Weekly? Monthly? Or just big annual resolutions?)


Unknown said...

(Natalie under Mike's account). I love this post so much. I too hate when people say it's a marathon not a sprint and I think you've hit exactly why. My goals for the month and throughout the new year are to continue building up a stock of meals in the freezer. I got a good jump start this break but I'd like to keep cooking one extra thing to freeze like 8-12 portions of on the weekend so I keep building up the variety of what I have in the freezer. I did a pretty good job of this in the fall and it kept me more or less on track--meaning I lost like 1 or 2 pounds a month but at least didn't gain. Of course, I have a ton more to lose but...it's something. My biggest problem right now is that I'm so dead tired by the end of the week that I sleep in too late on Saturday and it ruins the whole weekend and I don't go out enough. So, I'd really like to keep better hours during the week to mitigate how tired I've been by Saturday and then, hopefully, feel more energy to go see friends, tour the new area I live, etc.

Denise said...

HOORAY x1239487234987298374283! Three days is most excellent. So is writing about it.

January goals include taking my supplements every day (there are a lot) and eating a nourishing breakfast. I'm doing a Whole30 with husband/some friends, but I a) hate waking up early, which I have to do because I need to take my thyroid pill on an empty stomach and have to wait thirty minutes to eat and b) hate making breakfast. It takes a long time and it creates more dishes and I usually don't feel like eating, but when I don't eat breakfast I go off the rails, food-wise, so in the end it's better that I eat it. Even though I hate it. But I've been doing what I've wanted for a long time (as it pertains to food) and it's gotten me absolutely nothing but more weight and weird acne and super bad heartburn.

I've also toyed with the idea of blogging again, but that never really increased my accountability. I just really liked it.

Also I lost your phone number when I switched phones (ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR PHONE, ALWAYS) and there were a few times I wanted to message you about how you were doing but I didn't want to appear nosy or weird. I'm glad you're back! So glad.

Anonymous said...

January goals:
1. Meet my water intake goals
2. Track my workouts in my workout book
3. Attend classes (CrossFit) Monday through Friday each week this month (I attend class daily, no problem, but typically skip Thursdays because it's not an actual workout, just mobility/stretching...I need to stretch and have active recovery)
4. Keep active on the weekends
5. Take my vitamin daily (This will be the most difficult for me...I know it)

Christina @ Love Yourself Healthy said...

Great goals! I typically make yearly and monthly goals, but this month I'm going to try weekly goals (in lieu of monthly) and see how that goes. I haven't figured them all out yet, but hopefully by tonight or tomorrow.

Taryn said...

Mary, it is so so so good to read your words on this blog again. I can't even tell you. I am so incredibly proud of you for getting to 4 days. I know you've struggled the last while, but you've never given up completely. Sure you may have had to hit the reset button a few times but at least you keep pressing it.

I'm just a text away if you need anything. Ever. I'm always here for you. ♥️

Tabitha M. said...

I am so glad you are back to writing I have missed reading your blog. I work in the legal field and while we handle very little divorce work money always changes things.

My biggest issue with weight loss is food but not in the conventional sense. I am extremely picky, I could/do live off cheeseburgers and fries. I try to eat chicken and mac/cheese for dinner and apple/peanut butter or protein pancakes for breakfast but I hit the drive thru for lunch because I don't like lunch meat/most vegetables/or just about anything you would pack for lunch. I don't have access to a microwave either. This year I have been bring a PB&J with fruit for lunch, I am two days in of no fast food.

I goal for the new year is to try new foods and recipes. I have expanded my eating habits a lot over the past 8-10 years but not enough.

Erin Myone said...

Hi Mary,
I'm Erin. Like you, I'm also 29, I also once (2008) lost a lot of weight (for me it was about 65 lbs), I also gained it all back plus some (100 lbs). I'm also trying to get back to where I was, for me it was grad. school, where I birthed a Thesis and lost all self-confidence and willpower. I have been up and down with depression since I was 18 (when I first started gaining), and recently went through a deep down swing. I know it's cliche but I'm trying to Jumpstart with the new year. I guess, I just wanted you to know, I'm with you. I read your blog, I feel the struggle, and I'm with you. Keep making manageable goals! Keep motivated, you are worth it. I hope you keep writing, though I know things are off because of the custody issue... We are here for you.

Amy said...

I'm doing a Whole 30 again. My 4th round (I've only finished one though - the other two were 24 days)... and that's my focus for January, that and managing my anxiety that has surfaced the last few months.

I am so happy to see you back here and posting again, because I can tell writing is so good for you, for me it's like my journalling, I need to keep up with it, or else I don't have an outlet to process the thoughts in my head, and I think this blog is a huge key in your success.

That said, I think knowing what works for you is great too! I sometimes will get too obsessive over what worked once for me, and then failing to find that magic again, or failing to make something click. It's such a hard balance to find.