I stepped on the scale this morning and saw a number I haven’t seen since college: 120. Part of me felt pretty great about it, because I’m not very good at being able to see weight-gain or weight-loss in the mirror. It’s too gradual, and I’m too blonde.
On the other hand, though, I still feel a bit dissatisfied with the state of my bod. There are still some areas I’d loooove to change. So this is a big lesson for me: the number on the scale is only part of the story. More important than your poundage is how you feel in your own skin. I know lots of women don’t weigh themselves at all, and I applaud that. I’m too good at convincing myself that my clothes still fit when I’m stuffing myself into them with a crowbar, though, so I have found the scale to be a useful tool in tracking my progress.
I believe that weighing oneself is a personal decision that takes a lot of introspection and insight. A scale can be a slippery slope if you’re the type to get obsessive and start flagellating yourself when you gain a pound after an indulgent weekend. But it can also be a quick way to keep yourself on track if you’re able to maintain a healthy perspective on your body and your fitness. There have been times during the past few months where I’ve intentionally stayed off the scale. I knew I had probably gained a couple of pounds and I didn’t want to feel guilt and anxiety (which can lead to unhealthy behavior) over it. During those times, it was easier to just concentrate on having a good workout and making sure that I was giving my body exactly what it needed, food-wise.
Although I’ve always been pretty active, the big turning point for me in losing the extra weight has been changing my diet.
Right around my birthday in March, I weighed myself one afternoon following a large lunch. The number on the scale was 137. Sure, I had just eaten a ton and it was the afternoon, but that was the most I’d ever weighed. I know this doesn’t at ALL qualify as “heavy” – but for me, it was a shock. I looked in my closet and suddenly saw all of the beautiful clothes I hadn’t worn in months because I didn’t feel good in them. The truth was that they no longer fit me.
The most annoying part was that I’d been working out like a maniac! I didn’t understand why I was gaining weight rather than losing it. Here are a couple of pictures taken during the 137-pound week. I was wearing such a big jacket that it’s hard to see my body, but those jeans I’m wearing used to be my “baggy jeans.” You can see how tight they had grown.
The place where I noticed the weight gain the most, actually, was my face. Which SUCKS, because it’s not like you can throw a chunky sweater on your face. I started contorting my neck and avoiding smiling in photographs because of this. Every time Dave took a picture of me, I would yell at him if the camera wasn’t angled above my head so I could make my face look thinner.
Now, again, I want to reiterate that I KNOW I wasn’t even close to being overweight. What was more troublesome was that my weight and my body image were affecting my behavior. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin.
Since I was working out so much, I knew I needed to revisit my eating habits. I quickly realized that on the days I worked out, I basically gave myself a free-pass to eat anything and everything I wanted. 3 bowls of cereal before bed? No big deal; I ran 3 miles today. A 1-pound bag of Swedish Fish? I earned it on the treadmill today. 1400-calorie Pad Thai 3 times a week? I’m a runner now, so I can have treats like that. I know I never wrote about this crap on The Beholder, but that’s because this isn’t a food blog and I don’t like to write about what I eat. For every healthy recipe I shared with you, however, I was chowing down on something terrible for me.
Unfortunately, I had given into my cravings and urges so much that I was almost addicted to eating unhealthy foods throughout the day. I shudder to think of how much weight I would have gained if I hadn’t been working out so much. I’m sure there were days when I was eating more than 3,000 calories even though I only burned an extra 300 during my workout.
Luckily for me, I caught myself early in this cycle of bad eating habits and weird mind-games. I decided that instead of going out and trying a new fad-diet, I would see how far I could get by simply listening to my bod. A couple of weeks later, I wrote this post about it and showed my “before” pictures. (The “afters” are coming soon.)
My eating plan was simple: I only ate when I felt hungry. As I ate, I took my time and made sure to put the fork down before I got that gross, over-full feeling. The biggest challenge for me was being able to tell when my body truly needed food, and when I was just bored, stressed, or tired. I started drinking a cup of tea when I felt the urge to eat if I suspected that I might be fooling myself into feeling hungry. This worked well for me because on the rare occasions that I actually did need more calories, the hunger would almost instantaneously return after I drank my tea and I could tell it was really time to chow down on something delicious.
It sounds complicated, but it has actually been the easiest thing in the world for me. I never, ever deprive myself and I make a continual effort to eat foods that are full of nutrients. Rather than just having a cup of yogurt, for instance, I throw in some chopped almonds and frozen blueberries (which is actually wayyyyyyyyy more dee-lish than regular yogurt). I make sure to have lots of veggies every day. But I never let myself feel that bitter, cranky feeling that I used to get when I would try diets that forced me to give up carbs or sugar or fat. Now, when I’m hungry, I can even trust my cravings because I’m no longer used to eating processed, sugary foods. And yeah, I still scarf down the occasional fistfull of Jelly Bellies, but since they’re no longer replacing a meal for me, I don’t instantly want to binge on them.
Here’s another recent picture you’ve already seen – it’s another where I can tell how much weight I’ve lost. Mostly because those jeans are a full three sizes smaller than the ones above. Booya.
Anyway, this isn’t by any means intended to be a set of instructions. I just thought I’d share my experience. I’m lucky to be at a place in my life where it’s relatively easy to lose excess weight, and I quickly got used to listening to my body for hunger cues rather than shoveling 800 calories down my gullet four times a day. It’s a much more difficult battle for many women, but I believe that any person could benefit from letting his or her body be the guide, rather than the clock or the emotions.
I hope this isn’t discouraging for anyone to read. I can’t STAND reading those articles about how easy and simple it is to lose weight. It’s not. This solution is, for me, the result of three years of trying to balance my diet and exercise in a healthy way. It won’t work for everyone, but that’s the point: you have to find what works. The most important part is learning what’s best for your health.
Any thoughts or comments, people? I know this sort of veered away from my normal tone and whatnot, but it’s a very real part of my training for the half-marathon and for life. How do you make sure you’re doing what’s right for yourself?