Weight Loss, Part 3: Surrendering to the Wave

We’re back for part 3 in my weight loss series of how I lost more than 50 lbs – and how I plan to keep it off.

Like any good blog series, this one has a lot of back story, which I’ve shared here and here and here. Today, we are pretty much caught up to “modern times” – or at least to that point four years ago when I stepped on the scale and had my get-real moment.

Let me “get real” with you all for a moment, too. Yes, I’m going to share actual numbers. I do this because I believe that total honesty can only help to demystify the whole thing. What’s the point in my talking about this if I’m not going to be completely honest?

Plus, it’s oddly empowering to own this without having to “shine it up”. It’s like before and after pictures, where the person is headless. I can’t stand those! I’m not a headless story – this is real, all of me.

So the real me is 5’4” (and a half – we can’t forget that half!) and I have given birth to three children. After each pregnancy, a lot of the weight came off, truly without much effort. But the last 10 pounds? Those hung around stubbornly.

With three babies, that was an extra 30+ pounds over ten years. Plus, you might remember that I gained about 14 pounds in the three months after my wedding (post-wedding-stress-eating?).

Which brings me to that moment, four years ago, when I stepped on the scale and saw the number 186.

I was about to turn 41 and physically, I felt winded and tired all the time. Emotionally, I felt sad and ashamed of myself for giving in, over and over again, to the lowest common denominator. I knew something had to change.

So I did what I knew to do: Diet and exercise. Calories in, calories out.

There is a lot of comfort to this basic equation. It’s simple. (At least seemingly so.) Just burn more than you consume.

I joined My Fitness Pal (it’s free) to keep track of my calories and nutrients. My Fitness Pal recommended a 1500 calorie a day diet in order to lose 1 – 1.5 lbs per week. But I wanted to lose faster. So I selected the 1200 calorie a day plan — and bought a copy of the 30 Day Shred video.

Within two weeks, I was seeing results. Was I hungry? Sure. But the satisfaction of seeing that number move down on the scale seemed worth a few hunger pains.

I dropped the first 25 pounds very quickly. Shockingly quickly, in fact. In just 2.5 months, I was down 26 pounds. I attribute most of this to the fact that I had quite a bit to lose. The first half will always be easier to lose than the second half. I even wrote a post about it – and how the process reminded me of getting out of debt.

The problem was that unlike my issues with money, I never really dealt with the underlying issues I had with food. I hadn’t fully faced all the emotional stuff that caused me to turn to food as comfort in the first place – and then how that comfort turned on me, in the form of guilt and self-loathing.

So sure, I could lose the weight. But could I keep it off?

I got down to 156 pounds by November of that year. But then work got busy – and it was winter (which is always a hard time for me!), so I took my foot off the proverbial gas. Also, I will tell you that as a blogger, I have an extremely sedentary lifestyle, which does my attempts at weight loss no favors.

By the following summer, my weight had crept back up into the mid 160s. Yes, I had maintained some of the initial loss, but now the scale was going in the wrong direction.

Let me take a second here to say this: I don’t believe that the scale is the be-all-end-all in weight. I also don’t think BMI is a magic number for health. In fact, I think for many people, it’s bunk. But for me, these numbers did accurately reflect the reality of what was going on in my life.

I had long-since stopped logging into My Fitness Pal. I wasn’t working out every day – or even every week. I had returned to eating – and drinking — a lot of sugar.

In what felt like no time, I had slipped right back into my old, familiar ways – and felt powerless to stop the backslide.

Then that summer, I went to a lecture by Dr. William Davis, the author of the book, Wheat Belly.

Dr. Davis talked about the addictive power of grains and the chemically altered state that wheat and corn appear in nearly all of our packaged foods. He referred to studies that show they are even more addictive than heroin!

More.addictive.than.heroin, people.

I’ve never done drugs – but clearly heroin is pretty crazily addictive.

At the end of the lecture, I felt optimistic – almost giddy. It had a major ah-ha moment: That feeling I got, when I took one Oreo out of the package, and instantly felt as if I was diving head-first into a pit of Oreos? Maybe that feeling wasn’t entirely my “fault”.

Maybe not being able to stop at just one cookie (who can do that???) had less to do with my weak will power (which is what I’d always told myself) and more to do with the food I was putting in my mouth.

I wish I could say that once I got that, everything changed. But some of us have longer learning curves. You can know something, but you don’t really know it until you internalize the lesson and convert it from theory into practice.

I did get off grains right away after the Wheat Belly lecture – and I did notice a big difference, physically and mentally. I dropped about 10 pounds (without counting a single calorie!) and felt much more clear-headed. My mid-afternoon brain fog was gone.

I had turned a real corner in terms of my relationship with food. I even started to be able to articulate why, for me, moderation is harder than abstinence. (If you struggle with moderation, please read this post. I think you will relate!)

But despite these changes, I still didn’t feel like I was fully on top of “it”. I felt haunted by my old habits and beliefs – like those patterns were right around the corner.

And indeed they were. November came, work got busy, the weather got lousy – and bam: Hello, old ways. (Are you sensing a winter-time pattern yet?)

Have you ever been pulled under by a wave in the ocean? That’s how it felt. And once you are under the surface, you can fight, which, frankly, is exhausting – or you can surrender.

For a few months, I just surrendered. The weight crept back up, my energy levels fell off, and I returned to the narrative of my weak will-power being to blame.

Thankfully I didn’t stay stuck in that place for long. Although even once I got up – once I stopped surrendering — I wasn’t entirely done, either. That wave is powerful, folks. And even though surrender meant “drowning”, there is something perversely comforting about such a familiar experience.

I’m going to leave you here for now — sorry for another cliff hanger. But I’m already at 1400 words and I have to find you some deals today, too! I promise to pick back up again next week, with the story of my first Whole30.

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  1. Brooke Lewitan says:

    Look forward to hearing the next installment! FYI – the link to Whole30 goes to Amazon – American Girl 🙂

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