A recurring feature on EM2WL is called “The Journey.” We strive to stress the importance of staying consistent, trusting the process, and making EM2WL a lifestyle. In featured “Journey’” stories, we get an inside look at how each person will make the process work for them, as well as demonstrating how this process looks from fresh angles. Journey participants agree to keeping us updated periodically, first sharing their story, then updating as their journey progresses…
My story is not much different than anyone else’s story. I have always battled with my weight. I learned as a teenager, that cutting back on calories and eating a lot less seemed to make the weight just melt off in time for graduation. What a great idea! I fluctuated around the same weight (mid 130’s) all through high school and was very active in sports. The weight slowly crept on and even though I spent much of my university days playing various sports and staying active, it wasn’t until I lifted with an ex-powerlifter that I was introduced to lifting heavy at age 20. We lifted together for about three months. He always came with a plan, and I just did what I was told to do. It worked. I made huge strength gains and worked my way to doing a full pull-up by myself! However, that ended abruptly as I watched the scale continue to go up and up. This resulted in panic and I ended those workouts because I didn’t like seeing the scale increase. Little did I know that I was probably in the best possible place I could be at that time, and that over 20 years later, I’d be back at the weights again!
Throughout the last couple of decades, I have done everything humanly possible to drop the number on the scale. I bought a gym membership and attended group fitness classes because they were fun and I didn’t have to think about what to do in the weight room. I did muscle sculpting classes because I really enjoyed lifting weights, and stepped, stepped, stepped in step aerobics. I ended up becoming certified as an aerobics instructor and taught classes for a number of years. However, throughout all those years, I still wasn’t skinny enough or lean enough and felt like a bit of a fraud teaching classes when I wasn’t as cut as some of the other instructors.
For diets, I’ve tried many… I used Nutri-System for a couple of months, but the program was expensive and although I quickly dropped 8lbs, the food was too horrid and the diet was too strict for me to follow past two months. The weight crept back on plus a bit more. Before I was married, I decided to try Weight Watchers. It worked, I dropped 28 lbs and looked great in my wedding dress, but the meetings were not for me, and weighing in front of others and feeling judged every week, just made me feel awful. I would even try to make sure that I went to the bathroom before weighing in and find lighter and smaller clothes just to make sure I didn’t log a gain on the scale!! That is some insanely disordered thinking which I developed!
After two pregnancies, I decided to try running to get rid of the weight. I made it a goal to try and run my first 5k race and was able to do it without any issues. So, then I set my goal for a 10k race, then a half marathon. I was slower than molasses, but am happy to say that I have completed two half marathons and have the medals to prove it. Was very proud of myself, yet still didn’t have that amazing runner body that I was looking for.
I had resigned myself that I would have to starve in order to look the way I wanted to look. I was eating 1600 calories a day during this time of running and still couldn’t lose a single pound. Little did I know that I was likely forcing my body to hold on to the weight because I wasn’t fueling properly!! I dropped my calories down to 1400 calories, but was really exhausted and my running stalled. I logged a 1.5lb loss and so I thought I had found the magic number to use. I was using a Bodymedia Fit at the time, but didn’t believe that I was burning 2500-2900 calories in a day because if I was, why wasn’t I losing weight??? Maybe I was just an oddball whose body was unable to use the extra calories. I just didn’t have the energy to push myself and it got to the point where running was a chore and no longer enjoyable.
It was at this point of frustration that I found Eat More 2 Weigh Less on MyFitnessPal. I read those pinned notes that Kiki wrote in awe. Really? I didn’t need to starve myself? I had to heal my metabolism and reset? I had a lot of questions and read the threads over and over. I finally worked up enough guts to begin posting and began to understand what was happening in my body. So, I tried bumping up my calories again to 1600, then 1800. I bought New Rules of Lifting and read it cover to cover. I googled Stronglifts and chose to begin that program because I loved the idea of making gains slowly but surely. I gave up my running and decided to focus on lifting. I made some great gains for about 15 months just following Stronglifts, but it became really difficult when I maxed out on my lifts and could no longer make gains. I started to get bored and was not sure what to do next.
At this point, my husband and I went on a trip with our friends to Las Vegas. I was lifting heavy, and still eating around 1800, but had sort of given up on myself. I didn’t know where to turn and how to improve my habits. I knew I didn’t want to eat any less, but the scale wasn’t moving and the lifting wasn’t working for me. On this trip, I hit an all time low. I was at my all time heaviest and just was not able to enjoy the trip because I was so focused on my size. At one point, all of our friends were heading down to the pool and we were supposed to meet them there, but the thought of appearing in public in my bathing suit was horrifying. I had a bit of an emotional breakdown and told my husband that I needed to go and workout because I had to do something to make myself feel better. I went to the gym and lifted hard and heavy. I went back to my room and broke down at the thought of putting on my swimsuit.
I will never forget how awful I felt, so I reached out for help. I will never forget the amazing words of comfort and encouragement that I received from Kiki. She shook me back to reality and so because of her I was able to march down and enjoy the rest of my holiday knowing that we would create a plan for me when I got home so I could focus on some goals and get myself on the road to being a normal human being.
The most embarrassing thing I had to do to begin the process was take pictures of myself. It was humiliating. I did not want to do it, but I knew I had to know where I started to see any progress. So, I sucked it up and sent them away. I then spent the entire year working out and eating more. I learned that I needed to focus on more protein in my diet. Previously, I was lucky to even get 50g in a day. Now, I am taking in at least 150g/day. That was the only change in my eating that I have made other than increasing my calories to about 2200-2400 calories per day. I have been doing weight workouts 3-4 times per week and tried to increase my NEAT every day. I have been faithful to my workouts and have tried pushing my workouts to consistently make gains in strength. I was able to push through my old maximum lifts (Stronglifts) and create new PR’s. But, these changes pale to what has changed mentally for me.
My husband and I just came back from a trip to Mexico with the same friends we traveled with last year. It was amazing. It was the best time we’ve ever had together for me because I was able to get out of my own way. How I felt about myself before actually held me back from doing a lot of things because I didn’t want to be judged. I also was so embarrassed about how I looked that sometimes I pushed my husband away. It was no way to live. Punishing myself was one thing, but punishing the person who cared about me most was another.
Another huge motivation for me were my kids. I did a lot of reading and realized that how I would talk about my body was not the way I wanted my kids to talk about their bodies, especially my daughter. So, slowly, I made a conscious attempt at not beating myself up in the mirror especially in front of her. I began to look for things that did look nice, rather than picking apart my belly, or my rolls, I focused on positives like the little deltoids and triceps that began to peak out. Together we celebrate new muscles that are appearing or how my lifting is going. Often, returning from the gym, the first question I am asked is, “How was your workout, mommy? How much did you lift today?”
Looking back at last year and this year, I’m in a completely different mindset. I know I have worked hard. I have eaten my protein pretty consistently and stopped the anxiety about when I’m going to be skinny. I used to say to myself, “It’s been 4 months, I am not remotely skinny. It’s not working.” But, I’ve learned that my body will do what it wants to do when it wants to do it. I cannot rush the process, but just go along for the ride. I know I am stronger, and I know I have more muscle, but the darn fat is slow to go. Unlike quick weight loss where the changes appear quickly on the scale, but do not last, slow and steady loss will require commitment even when the usual tools to measure progress are not working. I go to do my workouts not to get skinny, but because I know that it will help me get where I want to be. I have bought new clothes because my body has changed and I don’t worry about the size I’m buying because I look better in clothes that fit me. After all, no one sees the size or cares if it is a 10 because if it looks awful, it looks awful!
I have learned to be kind to myself. I know what to do to keep myself from slipping into the negative thoughts. So, on this last vacation, we had fun because I ate the seafood and the desserts, I drank the water, I kept moving and enjoyed myself. I took in the sun, and allowed myself to try some fun things. I tried the pole dancing lessons, water aerobics with the activity crew, and my husband and I went kayaking on the ocean a couple of times. It was wonderful!! I realize finally how lucky I am to be where I am. I thought that I would not be happy until I reached my ultimate goal, but I realize now that I had it all wrong. I have to be happy with where I am so I WILL be able to reach my goals. And, although I’m far from where I want to be, I’m where I need to be.
This year of slugging it out has made me realize that nothing that is worth something comes easy and that quick results are not always lasting results. I want to be able to sustain my changes and knowing that I don’t have to starve myself to do it still amazes me. I weigh exactly the same weight as I did a year ago, which may seem ridiculous to some people. But I haven’t gained any weight and I know I look better because the proof is in the pictures. Most importantly, I have been able to dump an entire lifetime of negative thinking which makes me feel that there is nothing I will not accomplish if I stick to what I know how to do. I have made some changes physically without starving myself and I will continue to make changes because I know I can do it.
This mental shift is priceless and it makes me sad that I was so hard on myself all those years. I am able to admire others who are leaner, smaller or skinnier than myself because they are on their own journeys. I will no longer compare myself to someone else’s journey because we all have our burdens to bear. I know for the first time ever that I can sustain this way of life. For the first time, I’m truly happy, and I just want to thank the EM2WL family for all their support because without it, I would still be hiding and avoiding my own life.