Monday, March 28, 2016

After the After

So obviously I've been on a bit of a hiatus here. It wasn't intentional. It's just that every time I started to write, ugly words would pop into my head. Words like hyprocrite. Fraud. Loser. I thought, who am I to be writing about weight loss when I can't seem to get my own act together? Over the past few months, I've put on some weight. Not a gigantic amount, but enough that my pants felt tight and I felt concerned and panicky. But here's the truth about weight loss: it doesn't stop after that after picture. Yes, you may stop trying to actually lose weight, but the struggle continues. It would be so nice if everyone lived happily ever after after that after picture (wow, that was a lot of afters), but that's just not how it works. There are still bumps along the way.

It was frighteningly easy for me to put on weight. I didn't suddenly go crazy and start eating pizzas by myself. All it took was a little bit bigger portion size. A lot of changes happening all at once to make me start emotionally eating again. Being busy. A few missed workouts when exercise used to be non-negotiable. A few "well deserved" treats. Then I stopped tracking my food. As winter set in, I stopped running outside. I let a few weigh in's slide because I didn't want to see the number. So many little bad choices that added up. So many excuses that are all legitimate, but all still add up to gaining weight no matter how reasonable they are. As easily as I seem to be able to make habits, I also break them just as easily. And as I watched this happen, all I seemed to be able to think was "It's not fair." Why can't I live like the vast majority of people and not gain weight? Why does my body seem to want to be fat? I told myself I needed to get it together. I recognized all these red flags, yet I couldn't seem to stop doing what I was doing. My boyfriend noticed me looking in the mirror a lot, and I told him that contrary to what it may look like, I'm not vain. I'm just looking in the mirror because I can't believe how ugly and fat I look. Because when I looked in the mirror, my mind wasn't realistic. It didn't see somehow who may have put on a few pounds. It saw that old me, the 328 pound me, I think mainly because I felt like I was becoming more like that old me every single day. It scared me more than I could say, but that fear also seemed to paralyze me.  No matter how often Brian told me I looked beautiful, all I could see was someone that I didn't like very much at the moment. Someone that I was ashamed of, both because of what I thought I looked like and also because of what I was doing to myself.

I let myself be consumed by all these "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts." I shouldn't have put on weight. I shouldn't still be eating my feelings. I should be perfect. I should be able to make weight loss the center of my life like it was a couple years ago. I should know all the answers almost 4 years into this. I should be able to act like a typical human being and not gain weight. All this, when really the only "should" I should be thinking was, I should give myself a freaking break. Not any more of a break from eating healthy or exercising. But just a break from constantly beating myself up and being my own worst critic. Because I'm not perfect. I don't have all the answers. And the truth is, I'm not in the same place I was a couple years ago when I could really devote my life to losing weight. I've made mistakes over the last few months. And that's really okay.

It's funny because as much as I have stated that you can't force yourself to be ready to lose weight, I seemed to expect myself to do just that. I don't know what started to turn the tide. I don't know exactly when I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started thinking proactively. My first idea was that I really needed to do something drastic to kind of jumpstart my thinking back into weight loss mode. No, it's not what I usually advocate, but I felt something drastic was necessary to get me out of this downward spiral. I seemed to be having trouble dealing with food and proper portion sizes, so I decided to eliminate food for a while. I researched ultra low calorie liquid diets, and decided to try that. Not only would I lose weight, but I thought I could lessen food's hold over me. I did it the healthiest way I could think of, incorporating as much protein as I could and making sure to take my vitamins.

Sadly, this did not go well at all. Although now it seems slightly comical, it was anything but at the time. Day 1 involved me thinking about food all day. Day 2 involved me cooking for my boyfriend, and then mournfully eating my soup. Day 3 involved me getting increasingly cranky and lashing out irrationally due to hunger. Day 4 involved me feeling quite dizzy and having a constant headache. And finally, Day 5 involved me crying on the couch in the fetal position. Hence, day 5 was the end of this experiment. Five days felt like an eternity, and I knew that if I tried to do this for 3 months, not only would I probably pass out at some point, but I also would probably have no friends or family left due to my increasingly bad moods. Poor Brian already felt guilty every time he ate in front of me. He was a real trooper dealing with me those five days.

I decided to attempt this same diet, but not liquid this time. I thought I could get in more protein this way and also not feel so deprived. And three weeks into it, it has worked amazingly well. The headaches, dizziness, and bad moods instantly disappeared when I started eating again. But what with it being ultra low calorie, I have no choice but to make good decisions with my food choices. I have no room in this diet for anything but nutritionally dense food. And crazily enough, even though I have struggled many times before with trying to eat a low carbohydrate diet, this time I have been doing exactly that effortlessly. I'm not even doing it on purpose. It's just that I have no room in my calorie budget for low protein foods like bread or pasta. I don't even miss them, though I guess after that liquid diet fiasco, anything tastes good. I've now lost about a third of the weight I have gained.

I know that some people will say that what I am doing isn't healthy. And I fully agree that this isn't a healthy thing to do long term. Part of me feels really hypocritical because I always advocate moderation, not extreme diets. But here is what I also know: after months of berating myself for what I should or shouldn't be doing, I am finally doing what feels right for me. I've started running in the morning again and going to the gym more. I've started tracking my food again. I'm eating for nutrition and not as a form of comfort. I've haven't missed any weigh ins. After months of red flags, this diet has started me feeling like I have some green flags. The ultra low calorie thing is for three months only, and so far, I have suffered no ill effects, only looser pants and a sense of pride in myself that has been missing for awhile now. I finally feel in control again.

Over the past few months, I felt like I didn't deserve it when people saw me as a weight loss success story. After all, many people see success as being the opposite of failure, and I've failed more times than I can count over the last few months.  But the truth is that you will fail your way to success. Failures are usually an integral part of success. It's true that I've failed many times over the last few months. I'm sure I will have more failures in the months and years to come. What the lesson in progress for me is that success is less about being perfect, and more about having the strength to get up and start again after you've fallen down.