Complacency – Such an Easy Friend

When I began this whole weight loss journey, there was no room for debate in what I wanted; I was so singleminded that I gave up virtually everything cold turkey and I gave it my all.

Shockingly, with such a huge goal in sight, I was able to stick to my game plan relatively easily. Desperation – the desire to finally achieve something notable, or maybe just the desire to look at myself and not feel as though I’ve let everyone down (it’s a hard distinction to make) – pushed me to stay on track and keep motivated.

In hindsight, it was absolutely wonderful.

It seems strange to say that I yearn for the days of such aforementioned desperation, but there it is, it’s the truth. In the last 522 days I have achieved huge successses, and personal victories… Sadly, none of that progress occurred in the last 218 days.

When I moved to London last August, I gave myself a grace period to settle in; there was lots of pizza and beer and desserts because there were goodbye parties, welcome home parties, and general chaos while I was getting settled in and I decided that was okay. I may gain a few pounds, but in the grand scheme of things it would be short lived.

That grace period has lasted months longer than it ever should have, and though I still went to the gym (though infrequently) and watched my calories (loosely) I was hardly diligent.

So where does complacency come into it all? I’ve told myself all along that aside from the few pounds I gained over Christmas, I hadn’t gained anything else. Five to eight pounds, though counterproductive, was negligable, and easy enough to lose again.

When I’ve talked about my weight loss in the recent months, it has been to qualify that I haven’t ‘gained’ very much – which, yes, in itself is a bit of a win – but what I neglected to actually absorb into my thought processes was that in not gaining much, I also hadn’t lost anything.

I should have known that complaceny, though easy, wouldn’t feel good. It took me a while to realize it, but at this point, I’ve lost some of that muscle I built up during all that hard work last summer and now I’m back to being a jiggly jello-y mess.

So, today is a new day, and a new start. It isn’t about being super skinny and fit, it isn’t about being gorgeous, but it is about finally feeling safe and comfortable in my own skin – something that I honestly don’t know that I’ve ever felt.

I don’t like that I got complacent and was so easily swayed to maintain as opposed to continue pursuing it, and as such this blog is going to be a part of my accountability to myself, and of course to others. If I don’t do something to change what I don’t like, there’s no one to blame except for me.

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Intervention Required?

They say the first step is admitting that you have a problem. It’s also, at least in my opinion, the hardest.

You see, the thing is, whether or not my addiction is a ‘problem’ is open to interpretation. I don’t do it often, and it never impacts my day to day functioning. I’m open about my addiction, though I periodically try to partake discreetly, that is (most commonly) the exception. Usually, I’m quite open to sharing my newest passion.

Then again, I know I shouldn’t be doing it. I know that realistically it’s a short-term happiness…

You see, I’ve developed a shopping habit.

I know, I know, lots of people participate in a little recreational shopping and for the most part, nobody gets hurt but I said I wouldn’t do it – I wouldn’t participate in any form of retail stimulation until I was at my goal weight. Who needs a bunch of clothes that they’ll have to give away in a relatively short period of time?

Evidently, I do.

When I was at my highest weight, shopping was torture – recreational shopping would have been akin to being recreationally water-boarded. The lack of stores carrying size 22 was enough to basically turn me into a zombie in a mall – I would manage my way through retail establishments listlessly and with empty hands. If I was lucky, I might purchase some sort of tarp-like t-shirt or something equally bland. They just don’t make pretty ‘fat’ clothes for women in Canada – and if they do, they’re in such high-end boutiques that I couldn’t afford it.

In January, when I my colleagues sent me shopping for new clothes (if you need a reminder of my near mental breakdown at the time, here’s a refresher) it was something akin to hell. I realized that I no longer knew what suited my body, and the mere idea of having to start all over again was awful.

Oh, how far I’ve come!

I’ve since become a fairly solid 14/16 and with the additional weight-loss, it was almost as like they opened the doors to the world to me, and in doing so, the doors to the mall have flung open like a welcoming hug from a long-lost relative.

Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, I can shop in most stores in the mall! When I walk in, instead of being sized up by the sales associates, I’m greeted warmly and my adventure begins.

I’ve learned that I like colour – I love bright, bold clothes, and fun designs. I enjoy clothes that fit a little closer to my body and for the first time in ages I’m not seeking boxy, bulky fabrics. I like reading about fashion and how various trends can be integrated into our daily lives, and trying to implement a few of those trends into my daily life – not because I want to be trendy, but because it feels good to be able to wear things I find aesthetically-pleasing without seeming a total imposter!

I had told myself many, many times that I wouldn’t invest in clothing until I was smaller, and in recent weeks, I have realized the impracticality of that plan: it’s nearly summer and the few size-appropriate things I do own are of winter-weight, and I’ve always enjoyed dresses. Clearly I’d have to be absurd to refrain from a little retail therapy, wouldn’t I? In the interest of frugality, I set a goal that I wouldn’t purchase anything that wasn’t at least 40% off regular price (unless I loved it too dearly to possibly pass it up) and when possible, I sized down, hoping to stockpile clothes that would last through another few months. Things that ‘just’ fit and bordered on being ‘too big’ were put back and quickly forgotten.

I know all addicts justify their habits, but I genuinely think that this is the sort of problem that I like… Although it may be a bit of a ‘waste’ of money (spending it on clothes that may not fit in another six months) it allows me to feel good about myself. It allows me to feel pretty and isn’t that a nice little bonus?

The recent weeks have seen numerous additions to my wardrobe: a coral floral printed blouse, a tan dress with thick coral stripes in the skirt, a black printed maxi dress… Just to name a few. All of my new clothing purchases are dear to my heart – I adore each item because in addition to being exactly what I wouldn’t have worn 8 months ago, they’re a great reminder of how far I’ve come so far.

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(This is my fave recent purchase, I think…)

For the time being I will try to reduce the time I spend partaking in my newest hobby; it’s not because I don’t love it, but because I need to focus on working my way down to those smaller sizes. I am looking forward to ‘single-digit’ sizes sometime in my near future!

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7 Months, 71 Pounds, and a lot of Reality

I’ve got to be honest with you; when I started this journey, my goals were so vague that all I really knew was that I didn’t want to be *that* big anymore. 

In October, when I took my measurements to send to the seamstress for my friend’s wedding, the numbers were so horrific that I realized a few more inches meant that a standard measuring tape would no longer fit around me at my widest point.  Since the measuring tape was only marginally wider than my arm span, in my head that computed to people no longer being able to hug me properly. 

In my family, we hug a lot.  Somehow, the idea of people having to struggle to hug me was enough to jar me from my state of complacency. 

When I began this lifestyle change, I didn’t have a plan and I had no goal other than to be smaller.

I suppose, at least in part, that was because I never really felt impeded by my weight; I was able to do most of the activities I wanted and I considered myself reasonably fit (for a fat chick).  Even if I got sweaty and tired, I rarely felt of breath.  I was strong and I felt as though I was adequately attractive for someone of my size. 

What I’ve since realized, perhaps only very recently, is that I was setting the bar so low that there was little chance of realizing just how inhibiting my weight was. 

Let me backtrack a bit…

A couple of summers ago, my colleagues began discussing the possibility of skydiving.  The idea intrigued me; I liked the prospect of doing something risky, yet calculated.  The sense of adventure appealed to my ‘reckless’ side. 

As I researched the possibility, it became evident that my weight was going to be a problem.  I was more than 60 pounds too heavy to skydive in tandem. 

Instead of acknowledging that my weight was an issue, I instead told my friends that my budget was too tight and I told myself that I didn’t really want to go anyway.  It was easier than having to admit that my weight was not only much higher than I wanted to recognize, but that it was preventing me from doing something. 

There have been many of these moments in the past fifteen years.  In retrospect, not wanting to be the fattest, most awkward, or least fit made me pass on opportunities that I would have enjoyed.  Some people own their weight (kudos to them!) but my weight owned me. 

The more weight I lose, I’m realizing that I’m a much fitter fat girl than ever before.  I can walk longer, faster and with fewer aches.  I can lift heavier things without the struggle I once had and yes, I fit into smaller clothes. 

I never entertained the notion of playing a team sport or maybe someday wearing a bikini.  I always told myself that as a fat girl some things were just indisputable, and I accepted them. 

Those days are over. 

For the time being, my current body condition still dictates limitations but now more than ever I know I can change this.  I am empowered to change my body as I need to in order to recognize any goal I choose. 

I’ll probably never be ‘skinny’ but that’s not what this journey is about for me.  I’m giving myself the tools I need to experience life outside the ones I’ve allowed to dictate my life so far.  Instead of quietly dismissing the opportunities as a foregone conclusion of impossibility, why not embrace the reality that I’m only getting better?  Nothing is out of the question!

I had a reasonably amicable relationship with morbidly-obese me.  Through the years we experienced some truly great things and it stands to reason that this journey has unlocked a new ‘me’ who realizes the potential of this vessel beyond my previous expectations.  It’s not about being skinny, or hot, or socially acceptable: it’s about finally realizing that the only limits that truly exist are the ones I let stop me. 

And it’s about getting (and giving) really great hugs. 

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182 Days

Tuesday marked the 182nd day of my weight loss journey.  Six months – exactly.  For whatever reason, the sum total number of days committed to this journey feels much more significant than the changes I’ve undergone since beginning.  

 That sounds absurd, doesn’t it?  

 When I began this weight loss journey, I had no clue what I would do to get healthy, nor what lengths I would go to in order to find a more reasonable weight.  All I wanted to do was change the number on the scale.  

 I really didn’t put a lot of time or energy into the how – at least not initially.  

In the past 182 days I have proactively made lifestyle changes to improve my health, and to embrace the lifestyle I’ve always told myself I couldn’t have. 

What am I doing now that I didn’t do before?  I plan my meals in advance and often prepare extra to freeze for ‘emergencies’,  shop the perimeter of the grocery store, carefully preselect meals when eating out, and I go to the gym at least three times a week.  I eat clean – for the most part – and read labels.  More importantly, perhaps, I now understand labels! 

I no longer drink soda (and for the most part I am quite aware of not drinking my calories in general), or keep my cupboards stocked with sugary or salty treats.  I do not eat carbs after 4pm (unless I’m training that evening) and I don’t feel justified in social drinking binges. 

I must sound so boring – but I promise I have a lot of fun in my days.  I eat well – and a LOT – and rarely do I feel hungry if I eat on my regular schedule.  I sleep well, and no longer rely on prescription medication to get even just a few hours sleep.  I’m not as shy about my appearance anymore either – I don’t feel like hiding in the corner all the time – which is a lovely change for the woman who has missed numerous family events because it’s embarrassing to be the fat sister, the awkward one, or whatever…  Oh, and perhaps the biggest victory of the last 182 days has been that now I can shop in ‘regular’ stores.  These are all things that make me incredibly happy, and encourage me to make these changes permanent. 

I don’t quite know how I got from where I started (274 pounds, eating terribly, sleeping irregularly and generally not caring much for how I got through my day) to this point now, at 209 pounds and desperately wanting to do more going forward.  I don’t know what switch ‘flipped’ inside to change this from a mission of embarrassment (from a number on a scale) to the realization that I’ve been stopping myself from being who I wanted to be all along.

I don’t hate ‘fat’ me – she’s still on the inside, and on the outside, though to a lesser degree.  That me – the one that six months ago realized that somewhere along the way nearly 60 pounds had snuck onto her frame without her noticing – is the one I’ve known for most of my life.  She’s the one that has seen most of the adventures of my life so far, the heartbreak and the excitement.  I love the person I was because at those times – those places – she was the person I needed to be.  I could have been a healthier, slimmer me, but I wasn’t ready for that, and the reality is that until you’re ready to lose weight, nobody can make you want it. 

The last six months have been all about learning.  I’m learning how to eat better, exercise regularly, and challenge my body.  I’m learning that whatever I want in life, I can find a way to do it if I want it badly enough, and more importantly, I’m learning that I live my life – it doesn’t live for me.  I am not a victim, and I am not helpless – this weight loss has been a product of my dedication and the support of my many great pals – and this is a success I can claim as my own! 

I can’t wait to see where the next six months take me! 

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What Nobody Bothered to Tell me About Weight-Loss

When I began losing weight, I figured it would be sweaty, messy and probably really hard; fat girls don’t do well on treadmills – or ellipticals for that matter – and never having really endured any sort of exercise, it was all a magical mystery world to me.  

 
The first few weeks of exercise were really of mixed effort; I got hot and sweaty after about three minutes of slow trudging on the treadmill, and the elliptical made me nauseous.  When I’d brave the weights section of the gym, I’d try to discretely use the lowest weights I could without looking ridiculous.  It was exhausting.  
 
As the weeks – and months – passed, I found the endeavour getting easier, and slightly less stressful.  I began to enjoy the walks, then fast walks and occasional jogs, and the weights got heavier.  The pounds began to drop, my confidence increased, and all was well in the world.  
 
With the ever-decreasing number on the scale, tons of things in my life have begun to change; I can shop in ‘normal’ stores now, and I have discovered I love it.  I can finally, for the first time in history, comfortably cross my legs without feeling as though I’m sitting like a man, and when I go to run – at intervals (I’m not that good yet) I actually can maintain a pretty good pace for several minutes.  
 
These are all big wins for me.  
 
So what’s to complain about right?  
 
Well, there are lots of things about weight-loss that nobody ever tells you about, and though they certainly aren’t reasons to skip the journey, I wish I’d known in advance.  I’m the type of person who needs to be mentally prepared for every eventuality to feel reasonably on course.  
 
Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve noticed is that I can’t ‘see’ my weight-loss.  I’m still super-fat Mel, complete with rolls, lumps and bumps, even though everyone else seems to think I look much healthier now.  In fact, if I don’t have a side-by-side pic, I honestly feel like I’m still nearly 300 pounds.  Sometimes, and this may sound a little self-absorbed, I can spend ages just looking at pics and marvelling; why do I see the changes there, but not in the mirror?
 
I’ve also discovered that my ability to comfortably make clothing choices for myself has been compromised by insecurity and doubts.  When you’re a size 22/24, the options are pretty much tarps, or tarps – or at least, that’s what I always felt like…  Now, the selection of clothing is so varied that I honestly get lost in the stores, confused by what may now fit my body.  I’ve learned that the easiest way to quell the mental breakdown that otherwise comes with this issue is to take a friend (preferably one who is stylish) and try on things that I’m sure will look repulsive (because somehow they rarely are!)  
 
As if the clothing challenges weren’t enough, there was also what was under the clothes that has been trying…  I never realized how my body would change as the weight was shifted and lost.  I expected it to get smaller (and somehow in my mind I felt like that meant it would be a consistent, proportionate loss across all areas) but the reality is, the weight comes off as it comes off, and the location of the leaner areas are not for me to decide.  
 
This reality – one that I find particularly disturbing – was only realized yesterday during an attempt at mountain climbers… My program includes 40 mountain climbers, followed by 40 pushups, a two minute run, a one minute rest, and repeat (before starting the next phase of the program)  In my first set of mountain climbers – hands placed firmly on the mat, legs extended behind me, and my flat though quite sizeable bum in the air – I realized that with the momentum of the exercise, not only did my boobs now swing forward and whack me in the chin (not a lovely image, I know) but my thighs ‘slapped’.  This has never happened before.  My thighs have always been such intimate acquaintances that there has never been a space between them large enough to create slapping… Until now.  Admittedly, I haven’t bought a new sports bra since this journey began 62 pounds ago, so really this was probably my own fault to start with, but the thigh slapping?  REALLY?  It was awful, and somewhat humiliating.  It didn’t stop me, but for a minute I realized that this was yet another bump on the weight-loss road.  
 
Sadly, the list of things I never knew to expect is quite sizeable.  I find my ‘type’ has changed, so now I struggle to decide if I want to date the guy I used to like, or the kind of guy I who  now fits my healthier lifestyle… When people ask me about my weight-loss, I still struggle to ‘own’ it, as if somehow it’s on loan from a higher power, and at the end of the day I still crawl into bed and think about how much nicer it would be if my belly were flat.  
 
The journey from fat to fit isn’t all sunshine and lollypops – just as I expected; I just find it harder in ways I couldn’t have imagined before.  Still, these speed-bumps on the way to my healthier me are nothing compared to the embarrassing moments I experienced while being fat and at least I can embrace them as a somewhat funny story along the way.  I just wish someone had told me about this first.  
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153 Days …

… Or, perhaps somewhat more tangibly, 5 months and 2 days.  

That’s exactly how long I’ve been on this mission.  I started on October 9th with a rather hazy idea of what I wanted (to lose weight), and from there it kind of ballooned as I rather conveniently began to shrink.  

My initial concern wasn’t about how unhealthy it was to be 274 pounds, nor was it about how my long-term well-being could be impacted by eating fatty, greasy foods with a shocking frequency.  In hindsight, I wish the thought of my health rated in any of my early decisions, but it never did.  I really just didn’t like having to acknowledge that I was nearly 300 pounds.  

The past five months have seen a series of changes to my lifestyle.  I started cooking with shocking regularity (something I generally was quite good at avoiding, and if I did it, I would never make food that required actual preparation), I made healthier choices at the grocery store and better choices at restaurants.  In fact, realistically I’ve limited the meals I eat out at all, and when I do find myself going out for a meal, it’s never quite as enjoyable – I much prefer to know what I’m eating and how it was prepared.  

I’ve adopted a clean-eating lifestyle, eliminated prepared foods, and white sugar and I have bid a fond farewell to one another.  I gave up soda – something I never thought I could sustain – and quite happily have realised that I don’t enjoy it at all anymore.  

For the first time in years, I’ve made it to March with all of my sick days in tact – the winter bugs that usually plague me have been long forgotten.  The few times I’ve felt poorly, I’ve bounced back quickly and even through it all I never stopped going to the gym, eating well, or thinking about how to make my body healthier and stronger.  

Somewhere along the line, I dropped from a size 22/24 to a size 16/18, and from a 2-3x to an XL in ‘regular stores’.  Instead of my general angst in regard to clothing shopping, I’ve discovered I like buying pretty things, and more importantly that I feel pretty when I wear pretty things; I’ve never felt particularly pretty, so in a way this is my favourite NSV (non-scale victory) to-date.  I like colour – not just black, grey and white – and finally I feel confident enough to wear something that won’t make me blend into a bland background.  I want to be noticed because maybe, just maybe, after all this work I’ve earned it?  

In 153 days, I have lost 57 pounds and gained a new respect for how miraculously my body can rebound from years of abuse.  I’m still nowhere near done this journey, and I know that the next five months will present challenges different and probably harder than the last five, but my desire to just not be ‘that fat’ has faded away into something much better: a desire to be healthy and strong, and beautiful because I am confident.  

Confidence is sexy, and looks good at any size, but I know that for me, I won’t feel that until I get healthy (for me, they go hand in hand).  I’m just so glad that whatever motivated me has stuck with me long enough to inspire me to do something better than initially planned.  

 

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Plank You!

I’ve spent days meaning to update my blog.  In fact, I spent days thinking about what I would write if I were to actually able to write, but you see the ability to move my arms is only just becoming slightly less painful than it was Tuesday, and particularly yesterday. 

Monday night I willingly subjected myself to a class that has been touted as ‘the closest thing to hell on earth’, ‘the class that made me vomit’, and as just generally really freaking hard.  My friend (whose husband attends the as-yet undefined level of hell with zeal and to the tune of three times a week) went once, and said it was the worst thing she’d ever done – and she only stayed for half. 

So why the hell did I accept the invitation to join said-friend’s husband on Monday?  Well, simply put, I’m pretty sure you could crack-it up to peer pressure.  It wasn’t quite the taunting of grade-school, but it was a ‘you-think-you’ve-seen-hard?’ sort of mentality that felt like a challenge.  I hate backing down from challenges…

Monday evening, I got to the gym slightly terrified, and mostly intrigued – after all the build-up of the past week since I’d accepted the invitation, I was wondering if it could actually be nearly so bad as described.  I found my treadmill, got a good cardio start in, and then merrily found my way to the skip-circuit classroom.  Perhaps it was delusion, or perhaps it was my feeble attempt of self-preservation, but somehow I was either anxious or excited, and my body couldn’t quite discern between the two.

As with any class I take, I did the cursory assessment of the attendees.  I was pleased to see a geriatric couple whose combined age was at least 180, if a day, a couple of sort-of tubby girls (still smaller than me, but definitely not super buff) and then there was the general assortment of athletic people who looked as though they could bench-press my weight while simultaneously fighting off an angry pack of hyenas with their legs.  Although I wasn’t stacking up well, maybe there was hope for me yet – after all, if the oldies could do it, then certainly I could! 

So what exactly is the skip circuit?  It may conjure images of skipping merrily through the meadow with childlike glee.  But not this class.  Basically, this is how it works:  you skip for a minute, head to a station for a minute, and then you skip for a minute.  The stations are as follows:

Pushups
Wide rows (or deadlifts),
Situps/crunches,
Bicep curls,
Triceps (dips, kickbacks, or overhead extensions),
Planks,
Legs (Squats or lunges),
Bench press,
Upright rows or flys or standing presses,
and then last, but not least Quick straddle or burpees

This rotation is completed once, and then you get a luxurious break of 45 seconds, during which you actually stop to check your pulse to make sure you’re not dead – because it really does so very closely resemble hell.  And then you do it again. 

In all honesty, my first set of everything was abysmal – my planks were limp, my wide rows were something akin to an examination of my shoes, and by the quick straddle there was nothing ‘quick’ about me. 

Meanwhile, remember the geriatric attendants?  Well they came through each station directly after me, and they managed to look like Olympic athletes compared to me.  So not only was I panting, possibly on the brink of a major cardiac event, and purple (yep, when I work out really hard, I turn an unnatural shade of purple – I choose not to think too much of that…) but a couple of oldies were kicking my ass. 

Thankfully, death by humiliation was not even on my radar anymore.

When we got our blessed 45 second break, my friend’s husband asked if I would be braving the final half of the class.  Somehow that managed to be JUST enough of a challenge for me to reply that of course I would be attending – what was I thinking? 

The funny thing is – and this is something that completely confounds me – that somehow I was much more capable the second half of the class.  I held a plank for an entire minute (something I’ve never been able to do before) and then managed to do some pretty impressive skipping (for a fat girl who spent the first half of the class looking as though I may fashion a noose from the plastic cord…) 

As a reward for surviving the class, I managed to stumble my way home, up four flights of stairs, and collapsed on my bed, coating probably about 75% of my body in icy hot and wishing that I had never gotten fat to start with.  This would be so much easier if I was thinner. 

Of course, I am thinner – than I was – and I’m fitter than I was too, at least when this journey began, so maybe it’s all relative. 

With some degree of mobility returning to my upper body, I’ll be attending the skip circuit again next Monday, and maybe, just maybe I’ll survive until the end again but if I don’t I sure as hell intend to go out giving it my all.  After all, if the oldies can make it look easy, I certainly should be able to at least live through another 60 minutes… 

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