Nearly two months have passed since I sprained my knee and began a hiatus from daily mindfulness about diet and exercise. In that time, I have seldom exercised beyond physical therapy and walking. I am pleased to report that I have not inflated in size and am enjoying a break from my workouts. This injury was not a setback but a call to balance. Looking at my Fitbit logs was starting to make me feel like I’d become something of a hamster running on a wheel, a daily grind whose reward did not justify neglect in other matters, such as the dust and unsorted piles of paper in my house.
I am emerging from this break thinking that I’ll focus on walking for exercise and do a harder workout once or twice a week. My sprain was an overuse injury, so higher impact exercise was not as helpful as I thought it was. If the price of all that intensity could be arthritis or a knee replacement in my later years, I would rather be walking, especially since that type of exercise seems to work best for me at controlling depression.
This week I recalled the moment that made me bold enough to believe I could walk away from a lifetime of poor body image, which was crucial to my later weight loss. Several years ago, I had a brief delirium during a bout with the flu. I looked at myself in the mirror and in that reflection was a hallucination of my body perfected. Instead of seeing a morbidly obese women with tangled hair, I saw a supermodel in that mirror. I have held onto that image ever since. Not long after that fever, I met the man who would become my husband, and I started slowly losing weight. How I thought of my looks made all the difference.
As I make less of a priority of watching my weight, I am not so worried that I will fall off the proverbial wagon. I am enjoying getting back to the kinds of things that can’t be multitasked so well with working out, such as writing. Even if I were to fail eventually with my weight, I have the comfort of a good body image that I’ve held so long that it would be unshakable even if I were to become super jiggly once again.
I started using a Fitbit back in November of 2015. Prior to that, I had been logging exercise online, which I found tedious. Curious to see how much such a device could encourage me toward consistent exercise, I bought the starter device Fitbit Zip. I appreciated its flexibility in recording both steps and exercise bike workouts. All I had to do to record a bike workout was clip the Zip to my shoes. After a few months, I was curious to see if I’d benefit from having heart rate tracking, so I moved up to a Fitbit Charge HR. I’ve enjoyed seeing all of the data generated by the Charge HR. It’s been encouraging at times to scroll through months of my activity, seeing that there is good likelihood I can sustain that level of activity in the future. My sole frustration with the newer device was low to no recording of steps taken when my arm is stationary, such as when pushing a shopping cart or riding a bike. This week I tried a different placement of the Charge HR to remedy this problem while maintaining heart rate tracking. I placed it inside the band of my socks while riding an exercise bike, and the HR recorded my workout as accurately as it does when I wear it on my wrist. I also went grocery shopping with it inside my sock band. This also worked well. Once I find a way to reliably fasten the HR to the inside of my sock band, I will regularly change its position to my ankle as needed.
Recently I wrote about my success in keeping off 115 pounds for three years. Looking back, I’ve held that weight at bay for nearly four years. In the interest of full disclosure, I will reveal that I haven’t been absolutely successful in this battle. Who has been? I actually lost 135 pounds originally, and I have reached a turning point where I know I must be positive or I will eventually gain back more weight. Now is the time to refocus my efforts and to get back closer to my goal. If I had consistently followed the tips I outlined in the above link, I believe that I would not have slowly gained back twenty pounds over this time. My weak link is being honest with myself about how much I eat. This kind of self deception can grow slowly, where I start eyeballing servings to create larger portions and so on. This week I am trying to “get real” about what I eat and more accurately record my intake in my food diary. I don’t watch what I eat on holidays, and back when I was losing weight, that meant actual holidays. I have created a few too many extra food holidays during my weight maintenance.
I don’t have nearly as much struggle with exercise. I think this is because it is easier to record activity honestly, especially with my use of a Fitbit.I’ve also made exercise convenient by putting a TV in front of my elliptical machine. I can slowly binge watch series on Netflix and the like while getting in a work out. While I was saving up for an elliptical, I wore out an exercise bike in front of the TV.
One motivation I had in maintaining a 100+lb weight loss was the fear that I didn’t have it in me to do that again. That concern has served it purpose, and I think I do have the strength to lose those twenty pounds again. Even if I do not succeed in that venture, I still have maintained a 115 pound weight loss.
I have maintained a 115 pound weight loss for four years. I would like to share my strategies for two reasons: to help others would like to achieve similar results and to renew my goal of keeping my excess weight off. The hardest part of sustaining weight loss is determining how much focus needs to be devoted to that effort. I admit that I have not found an easy formula for setting this priority, but I know that it needs attention every day. I have learned that I was overweight because I have little sense of proportion regarding food and physical activity. For example, if I do not make a list of what I’ve eaten, I will just keep on eating. Likewise, I won’t move enough without a record of the exercise I’ve done.
Based on my experiences, I think there are many ideas in circulation about weight loss that are discouraging. The darkest one is the notion that it should be done quickly. It is better to think of weight loss like paying off a long term beneficial debt, such as a mortgage or student loan.
My journey also leads me to doubt common ideas about how restrictive a diet needs to be. I think the intensity and duration of exercise suggested is probably inflated, too. I have rarely eaten less than 1500 calories a day. Actually I average eating 2000 calories and walking 12,000 steps a day. While I was losing weight, those numbers were closer to 1800 and 15,000. I also gradually worked up to those numbers needed for me to lose weight.
Here is a list of what has helped me manage my weight:
- Keep a Food Diary and Count Calories – Calorie information is widely available online and on food packages. After a while you will gain a good sense of estimating calories.
- Use a Pedometer – At first just use it to get a baseline of your physical activity then gradually increase your steps to 10,000+ a day. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many daily steps you can sustain. Then try some more intense exercise like an elliptical workout or strength training. This last part isn’t absolutely essential, but you may find it feels so good that it helps you stay dedicated to watching your weight.
- Limit Restaurant Meals – I try to limit take out meals to once a week. I aim to spend the majority of my food dollars at grocery stores. It is easier to stretch your money and calorie budget by making your own meals. The portions of ready made meals at the grocery store are usually smaller than at a restaurant, too.
- Short Term Failures are Inevitable – I think it is impossible to eat right all the time. I have had many bad days with food. I have repeatedly gained and lost the same ten pounds. I try not to see these setbacks as signs of doom. I used to do that and yo-yo dieted my way to 260 pounds as a result. Keep trying, even if you have a bad day, a bad week, or a terrible month.