It’s not a secret that I lost weight over the past year. I’m proud of it as I worked hard. While I may not brag incessantly, I’m not hiding it either. I lost weight and got healthy over the past year. Go me!
That said, a lot of people have been asking me questions. “How did you lose the weight?” “What did you do?” “What did you eat?” “Did you try any supplements or any cleanses or Weight Watchers or diet foods or pray to the Weight Loss God?” I’ve been asked a lot of questions about my process. Now that I’m not actively training for a half marathon (as that doesn’t start until July), I thought I’d take a bi-weekly training post spot and talk about my weight loss journey.
First stop on the journey: How I got to the point where I needed to lose weight.
In 2010, I ended up with a back injury. Looking back, it may have come from falling down the steps on Christmas Eve, but we’re still not 100% certain. Instead of doing something about it, I wallowed in the pain. Oh, I wallowed. For a year and a half. In that time, I gained 30 pounds. This didn’t help my back pain. As my doctor pointed out, it only put added weight and pressure on my L4 & L5 which were jammed together. Adding on the weight only exacerbated the problem and pain, causing more wallowing. I was a mess. In July 2012, I finally went about getting my back fixed via four injections on both sides of my spine. I felt better. And then decided to go about getting healthy again — per the advice/request/demand of my doctor and the personal desire to be myself again.
Next stop: Moving again.
In August 2012, I started running again. I had been running off and on for years, including prior to the injury in 2010. I knew I liked running and it would be a good start on my journey. I also felt compelled to start running again because my physical therapist told me that a lot of back injury patients never run again. Tell me I can’t do something? I’m going to do it.
My first runs were slow. 14-minute mile slow. The early runs also involved a measure of back pain, though nothing compared to what I had lived with for a year and a half. As the pain began to subside altogether, my lungs remembered how to function and my legs — though shocked — continued to shuffle along. It took me two months to hit two miles and another month and a half after that to hit three miles. But I kept running, almost every day — with some time off here and there as I learned to listen to my body, to not push my back too far, too soon. After that point, I was again hooked on running and there was no turning back.
Of note: My calves got bigger before they leaned out. They’re still stupid muscular (see also the 9 mile pic on my marathon post), but my knee-height boots do all fit again. I love my calves.
At the same time: I began to look at what I was eating.
My problem wasn’t the food I was consuming. Over the past handful of years, my husband and I have worked hard to cut a lot of junk and processed foods out of our daily diet. We don’t have “convenience” pull-it-out-of-the-freezer-and-heat-it-up-for-dinner meals/junk, which is sometimes a bummer. (I mean, sometimes you just want Pizza Rolls. But we don’t have any. Nor do we have chicken nuggets/etc for the kids. No convenience food means no convenience. Sad.) So it wasn’t exactly what I was eating as opposed to how much I was eating. I like to eat. I like food. Food tastes good. And so, instead of changing up what I was eating, I reevaluated my portion sizes. I began eating slightly smaller meals. Additionally, instead of eating a second helping, I began drinking a glass of milk with every dinner meal. After I finished my serving, I would finish my milk and wait awhile. If I was still hungry, I took a small helping. But really? I was almost never hungry after that glass of milk.
At restaurants, I struggled — and maybe still do — but I began working on portion sizes while out to eat as well. I came home with a lot of doggie bags because, good gravy, restaurant portion sizes are out of control. But hey, lunch the next day!
At the same time: I began to look at what I was drinking.
In October, I cut pop (soda, for you weird people) out of my diet. Completely. Cold turkey. All done. I also used the swanky water bottle I got from the National Honey Board people at BlogHer ’12 like it was going out of style. I don’t know why, but if you put a straw in something, I’m going to drink the heck out of it. I upped my water intake to somewhere between 48 and 60 ounces per day. Sometimes lower, rarely higher. I still drink 2-4 (or, uh, 5?) cups of coffee per day. When we would go to restaurants, I’d either drink water or unsweetened (yes, you read that right, mainly because we’re Yankees) iced tea. I craved pop something fierce for awhile, especially when eating pizza (homemade or out) or Chipotle. The cravings passed. I recently had my first pop since October when we made root beer floats. It was yummy, but I felt no desire for more pop. I’m cured!
I cut out almost all fancy coffee drinks as well. I allowed myself two peppermint mochas during the holiday shopping time. Two. I’m feeling cheated even now just writing that. I think I also had one sweetened green tea latte over the time period. This wasn’t a huge or hard change for me as I drink my regular coffee black, but still, having the mental argument over whether or not I needed those extra, unnecessary calories was always a struggle. But I won.
Here’s the sad part if you’re looking to follow in my footsteps: During the height of my weight loss journey, I also cut out alcohol. Sorry, folks. But it’s true. That’s a lot of needless calories and, if you’re a wine drinker like me, sugar. As a bonus however, adding it back in after my half marathon showed me that I lost a lot of my tolerance and am now a super cheap date.
Along the way, and maybe not related, but possibly: I had an endometrial ablation.
I wrote about my ablation before, but I’ve never discussed what I see as a personal benefit: lack of monthly bloating. Prior to my ablation, I struggled to lose weight on a monthly basis. I would drop, oh, four or five pounds in a month — only to gain it back when my cycle would return with a mean vengeance. Every month. That was kind of defeating. After my ablation, guess what didn’t happen? Monthly bloating! So any weight that I was able to lose in any given month stayed off. MAGIC. I have read other reviews in which people gained weight after an endometrial ablation, but my personal guess is that they weren’t running 50 miles per month. I maintain that the decision to have an ablation remains my best health decision ever. My husband agrees; I’m apparently nicer now.
Along the way, most likely related: I got my anxiety under control again.
After my back procedure and subsequent journey back to health, I assumed my anxiety would right itself. I thought beginning to physically feel like myself would mean that I would mentally and emotionally feel like myself again. Wrong answer. I went to my doctor and explained what was going on — the remaining panic attacks and general feeling of woe — and she put me on an anti-anxiety medication again. Voila! No incessant mood swings accompanied by self-loathing and binge-eating. Again, people report weight gain after starting medication. I did not. I attribute that to a high level of movement.
In the end, I lost 36 pounds. I am choosing not to share my specific pre-weight (highest non-pregnancy weight, higher than two of my pregnancies) and post-weight as I feel that numbers are often a stumbling block for understanding. You merely need to know that I lost 36 pounds, am well within the healthy BMI range (which means next to nothing), dropped between 3 and 4 clothing sizes, and feel the best I’ve felt since pre-BigBrother. I was thinner — scale-number wise — after both boys, but that was a result of postpartum depression. I looked scary at points after the boys were born. Looking scary was never my goal.
Moving my body without pain was my goal.
Chasing my boys around the yard was my goal.
Walking through an amusement park or a fair or around the neighborhood with my family was my goal.
Walking the dog was my goal.
Being healthy was my ultimate goal. I’m healthy. And that, sizes and numbers aside, feels amazing.
From August to June, down 36 pounds — and over 500 miles logged. Note: Two of my favorite lady friends are to the left of me in the 2012 photo. Love you, ladies!
So, some FAQ’s that I’ve run across in sharing my story.
Do you eat low calorie or fat free foods?
No. NO. I’m a full calorie, full fat, REAL BUTTER kind of gal. I hate artificial sweeteners and refuse to eat them; they taste gross. Yes, I eat cupcakes when I make them for parties. Yes, I ate the root beer float the other night. Yes, when we take the boys for ice cream after baseball games, I get one. Pro tip: I get a kids’ sized cone because when did a small cone mean three scoops? Goodness. Yes, I eat cheeseburgers and real sour cream and delicious cream cheese. I did switch to natural peanut butter because, with my kidney, I need less sodium. We eat a lot more fruit in this house than we did previously. And hummus. All the hummus.
So what do you snack on?
Cuties (or their citrusy, seasonal counterparts) are a big go-to for me. KIND bars are now either my post-run snack or a midday snack. Pretzel Crisps with hummus = love. Apples and peanut butter. Cheese. (Real cheese. Like, Amish real cheese. Mmm.) Almonds. (Unsalted, which are totally boring, but both LittleBrother and I love them.)
Wait — no weight loss pills or cleanses?
No. That’s not really how I roll. Not to say I didn’t try them repeatedly over the years. Man, was I stupid in college. I’m jittery enough and visit the bathroom enough without adding random things to my body.
Did you gain weight before your half marathon?
Yes, I did. To run the lengthier distances (10+), I would have to eat some more calories, and my appetite also soared in general during this time as I was burning 1000+ calories per run. So, I ate more. I’m not going to deny my body food when I’m working in overdrive. I gained around 4-6 pounds as the half marathon approached. Two weeks later, having only run distances less than 6.1 miles since the half marathon and thus not needing the extra calories (and actually not consuming them despite still liking food), my weight is back to where it was prior to the calorie hike. 36 pounds down. Do I expect to gain weight again before my next half marathon? Sure. Do I care? Not a bit. Hi! I run half marathons! I AM AWESOME NO MATTER WHAT MY WEIGHT IS.
You still don’t look like a runner.
During my half marathon, I passed — and was passed by — people of all shapes and sizes. Let me tell you, the shape of your body has nothing to do with endurance and/or the ability to run. If you are telling yourself that as an excuse to avoid running, it’s just that — an excuse. If you’re telling yourself that I can’t be a runner because you are and you look better than me, well then, I think you’re missing the point of running in general. As I tell my sons, “Mind yourself.”
Do you expect to maintain this? Do you want to lose more? You should probably lose more; you still have a gut.
I do expect to maintain my weight loss. I’ve made some healthy changes and choices and will continue to work on running and movement in general. I have no goal to lose any more weight. I am happy and healthy where I am right now — and the clothes in my closet fit right now. Losing weight is expensive and I feel done with replacing clothes. Ha! And no, I shouldn’t probably lose more. Yes, I still have skin where three pregnancies stretched out my belly. Do I wish the skin would magic away? Sure! But maybe you should read an amazing perspective on stretch-marked, stretched-out, saggy, baby-caused-this skin instead and then lay off my belly skin.
What’s your overall advice to someone wanting to lose weight?
First off, don’t make it all about losing the weight. Make your main goal to be the healthiest version of you — at any weight — instead of an arbitrary number. And, secondly, this is what I tell people: Eat slightly smaller meals and move more. The end. (Oh, and yes, eat real butter because, REAL BUTTER.)
If you have more questions, I will answer them to the best of my ability. Thank you for being part of my journey — for accepting me and loving me when I was stuck in pain and wallowing, for supporting me as I began the process of moving again, and for celebrating my achievements.