Monday, January 29, 2018

Little Miss Crabby Pants Talks About Weight Loss

I was a skinny kid and all the way up through my teen years.  I topped out at 5'9" by high school and probably weighed somewhere in the ballpark of 135 pounds.  I had no boobs, no hips and iron-deficiency anemia issues.  Then I went away to college, turned 19, hormones fully kicked in and viola! I somehow got hips overnight.  This was largely a good thing, since that iron-deficiency anemia was now a thing of the past.  But my weight has steadily crept up on me ever since, until last year I went to the doctor for a ridiculously overdue physical and got The Talk.

The talk essentially was "You're on the other side of 40, you have a family history of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease and you're over 200 pounds.  Get your weight under 200 pounds."

5'9" does hide more sins but I had crept up to a size 18.  Plus, as much as I hated to admit it, my stupid doctor was right.  I started to get better with exercise right then and there....only to fall off the wagon around April.  And I laid in that ditch for a while until August, when I kicked my butt back into gear.  I have since lost 25 pounds.  Why am I blogging about this now?  Because it dawned on me recently that when it comes to the cold, hard truth about weight loss, the romance genre has a pretty crappy track record.  Case in point, the book I'm reading now where the Southern Fried Heroine is still eating fried chicken and potato salad while guzzling sweet tea and drinking Coke - but has somehow magically lost a dress size simply because she's remodeling a house.

Not that I'm bitter.

So here it is.  The Highly Unvarnished Truth of How Little Miss Crabby Pants Lost 25 Pounds and Still Finds Time to Whine.

Disclaimer: I'd be remiss to not mention that there are very real socioeconomic factors when it comes to health, diet and weight loss.  A box of Kraft macaroni and cheese is a heck of a lot less expensive than fresh vegetables and lean cuts of meat.  Don't believe me?  Pay attention at the grocery store sometime.  Anyway, this is to say that I have disposable income and while I budget, I don't have to make hard choices between "eating healthy" and paying the rent.  Other folks can't say the same.

Step One: Find Motivation That Works for You.  

This started for me at the Montreal Romance Novel Meetup back in August.  We walked. A lot. The last time the lower half of my body felt like that was after I spent eight days in London in 2014.  I realized I had to get serious again and I bought a Fitbit (I have the Charge 2 model).

Having an "electronic nagger" has been great motivation for me.  It also made it really easy for me to start keeping a food journal - which I had always heard works, but I'm not going to lie - it's a total drag.  I started out by counting calories.  Mind you, I was still eating junk - I was just eating less of it and trying to up my activity levels.  And it worked.  I lost 15 pounds within a few months.

Step Two: Face Reality When You Hit Your Plateau

I was at 17 pounds lost when Thanksgiving hit and was able to maintain.  However, I was stuck there for a while and even gained back a couple of pounds at Christmas.  Yep, time to face cold, hard reality.  Counting calories had gotten me this far, but I now had to make some changes in how and what I was eating.  And let me tell you, if I thought counting calories was a drag?  Yeah.

Say farewell to carbs and sugar.  OK, so it's not like I've fallen off a cliff and gone to the extreme.  However I have limited my intake considerably.  Given that I'm hopelessly addicted to sugar, I've been surprised how much easier that has been to give up than carbs in general.  Dear Lord, I miss bread.  Pasta not so much, but gods I miss bread.  I'm not proud.  I'd run over anyone reading this for a croissant right about now.

Step Three: Make Your Peace With Exercising

You know those people who say they "feel better" after exercise?  That they get a "runner's high?"  Yeah, those people are nuts.  I dislike exercising.  Always have, always will.  But the whole high blood pressure and heart disease history in my family means I really need to be serious about cardio.  The trick is finding something you can marginally tolerate.

I'm lucky in that I live in a warmer climate.  I'm not trying to exercise through two feet of snow and freezing temperatures.  My exercise of choice is mainly walking/hiking.  I also have my own elliptical machine at home, but I tend to only use it during the work week, if I use it at all.  Since I moved to a new Bat Cave in early November, my average has been around 20 miles a week.  This includes your basic day-to-day walking around and more brisk exercise walking.  I mostly walk at a nearby park, but sometimes I just walk around my neighborhood.

Step Four: Things I'm Still Trying To Figure Out

People ask me if I feel better.  Um, not really?  I'm not noticing a huge difference, although you think I would after losing 10% of my body weight!  I chalk this up to missing bread and hating exercise.  Also, I have the knees of a 70-year-old woman and they're a bit achy today after a long weekend of walking (12 miles - I hurt).

What has been great?  The clothes shopping.  I finally broke down and bought new work slacks because the old ones made me look like a circus clown.  I went from an 18 to a 14.  That being said, it's hard to gauge your progress through the vagaries of women's clothing sizes which are seriously messed up on a good day.  To give you some idea?  I bought some nice dresses recently.  One is a size 14 (OK) and the other is a size 12.  A 12.  There's no way on any logical plane of existence that I'm a 12 right now.  But there you have it.

Step Five: Figure Out Where You Want To End Up

My goal is to hit the weight I was when I graduated college.  I feel like this is realistic and doable.  And then I'll need to shift my focus on to maintaining my weight loss.

Step Six: Don't Feel Like a Freak

The main reason I wanted to write this blog post is to assure anyone currently struggling with fitness and weight loss that you are not a freak.  Little Miss Crabby Pants is here to keep it real.  Keeping a food diary?  It sucks.  Counting carbs and sugar?  It sucks.  Exercise?  It sucks.  None of this is fun for me.  It's not always easy.  Frankly it's a drag.  But what's the alternative?  Ignoring my family medical history, crossing my fingers and hoping for the best?  So yeah.  Here we are.  No, it's not easy.   And take a moment to celebrate your successes, even if they're small ones.  Find a way to maintain an upbeat attitude and your sense of humor.


the passionate reader said...

I have such a problem with sugar. I gave it up for four months and felt so much better--especially in my joints--but have fallen back into bad habits this winter. I think the only solution for me is to say NO desserts ever which makes me sad but I just can't seem to regulate a sane amount.

Laura K. Curtis said...

I have not gotten "the talk" from my doctor yet, but I am pretty sure it's just because she isn't paying attention and I need a new doctor. All of my siblings have been given "the talk" and I am not in any better shape than they are.

Victoria Janssen said...

I am pretty sure I'm getting The Talk at my appointment this week....

Wendy said...

Dabney: I have zero impulse control - which is why I thought sugar would be so much harder for me. My solution has been to not keep any of it at home. None. There's literally no fun junk food anywhere in the Bat Cave. But man, the office during the holidays was hell. I still found myself hitting the candy dish way too often.

Laura and Victoria: I knew I found the right doctor when he gave me The Talk, but also didn't heap a bunch of guilt on me. It was "you really need to be under 200 pounds. Even if it's 199 - you really need to get your weight under 200 pounds." I left there feeling like that wasn't an unrealistic expectation.

Lori said...

So happy you've stuck with it. Getting over the holiday plateau is always hard. Yay you! I have tried the no sugar thing and I absolutely can't do it. It always leads to binging for me. I did replace my bagel in the morning for greek yogurt with a little granola. More protein in the AM seems to really help my hunger pangs through the day.

I've been tracking my calories (MyFitnessPal) and exercise (Fitbit) as well. I've got the same family history as you, and I didn't want to have to go on meds. My BP is down significantly, and my other numbers are down too.

I set myself a challenge for miles each month. I started at 85 and when I consistently met that, I bumped it up by 5 each month (after meeting each new goal consistently). It was a great way for me to make sure I walked. This is my first month at 110.

You've got this!

Vassiliki said...

This is a really heartening post, Wendy and thank you so much for sharing your information. Unfortunately, I have gone the opposite direction to you since Montreal. I have gained 6 kilos (from an already too high weight) but this is mostly due to meds. I am eating less, and there is never any junk in the house. I'm trying to turn things around as I feel crap. so I think I will try to keep a food diary like you are doing. Let's see how I go.

Wendy said...

Lori: The next big hurdle for me (besides the weight loss) is cholesterol. Mine is borderline high. The bad and the good (which for some reason don't just cancel each other out). Counting calories early on REALLY helped me a lot - but I eventually had to accept the fact that I needed to start making smarter food choices. Which is a total drag - but there you have it.

Vassiliki: Weight gain from meds is The. Worst. I tracked my calorie intake through my Fitbit, but there are other apps out there and I know several people who had success with MyFitnessPal (what Lori is using). It helps keep you accountable and you really start thinking about portion control - which has always been hard for me.

Nikki said...

Congratulations! That is awesome! You're so inspiring.

Lynn Balabanos said...

Go you, Wendy!

I also got a tracker this year and it does help. Seeing how many steps I've done in a day is instant feedback. Plus the reminder to get up and move every hour while I'm sitting at the computer is top-notch. I realized there were times I was "in the zone" and didn't move for two hours which is terrible for my body.

I've heard several people listen to audiobooks while exercising. Since you are hiking, it might be a good way to make the exercise more enjoyable and pass by faster.

Wendy said...

Nikki: Thank you! I'm not so sure about "inspiring" though. I think I whine too much to be called that LOL

Lynn: I'm kind of a stat nerd, so a fitness tracker has been great for me! It's been an easy way to measure my progress.

I tend to hike with a partner, but I love audiobooks for when I'm on the elliptical. I can zone out, listen to a book, and get my miles in.

Carole Rae said...

Plateau....oooooo that horrible place. I've been sitting pretty there for a while. I can't wait for my elliptical to arrive! Now that I have my own house we are making our own little gym. I'm so excited. With no fear of others watching me I can work out with no anxiety.

Wendy said...

Carole: Yeah, I haven't done well with gym memberships in the past. Something about the environment, coupled with my tendency to be lazy - I start out with the best of intentions and eventually stop going, letting my membership lapse.

Congrats on your new home! We downsized recently but still found a spot for the elliptical - which comes in handy during the summer months since it gets so unholy hot where I live. It also gives me a great cardio workout, which is what I'm trying to focus on more these days for heart health.

Dorine said...

Congratulations! It is definitely a struggle. One thing that really helped my husband and I - joining a farm buying club, aka a farm share. It has forced us to be more aware of what is in season and to cook accordingly. We do a hiking challenge with our Metro parks, which made the exercise a lot more fun. Our biggest challenge - the winter months, when we want to be hermits. LOL I drug out the PS3 "Move" software for those times we don't want to leave the house. I think an exercise bike is on the list next - we couldn't fit the elliptical into our small house so we sold it. I really hate going to the gym, but I may relent as I got the "talk" from a doc this week. Sigh.

Wendy said...

Dorine: Yes, living in a cold climate and trying to remain fit during the winter months is SO hard! When I lived in Michigan all I wanted to do was eat comfort food and hibernate. At least living in California now, the weather is only an excuse during the peak summer months when it's 100 degrees outside.

Today was not a good day for me - I blew through my carb/sugar allowance. Oh well. At least I took my walk breaks at work and after all, tomorrow is another day...

Marguerite Kaye said...

Seriously, WTG you to have come this far, and even harder than starting, to have got back on the wagon again when you fell off.

I gave myself 'the talk' when I hit one of those birthdays. My downfalls are crisps and wine and cheese, I'm one of those strange people who doesn't really bother about sugar. Like you, I stopped having them in the house, because I have no will power. But unlike you, I found that I got a real high from exercise. I live in the sticks, so I can't easily et to a gym, so I tried out Jillian Michaels DVDs and got totally hooked. Three years on and I've just bought my 15th DVD of hers so I don't get bored, and I'm fitter than I was even as a teenager. I do drink, I do eat crisps and cheese, but I have got into the habit of rationing and compensating with working out, and that works for me. And yes, clothes are the main driver for me, not the scales or the measuring tape.

One thing you said really hit home too, and that's the cost of healthy eating. I'm sick to death of hearing our UK nanny state going on and on about eating healthier, when they don't have a clue about what anything costs. It's miles cheaper to eat crap, and no amount of taxing sugary drinks or salty foods or (about to come into force here in Scotland) units of alcohol is going to change what people eat and drink. We need to teach people how to cook in schools, and we need to make 'proper' food cheaper.

Right, stepping back down from my soap box now. Seriously well done.

Wendy said...

Marguerite: My sister likes Jillian Michaels - has one of her apps and she likes it because, like you, she likes to change things up in her workout so she doesn't get bored. I pretty much hate everything about working out, so it's a matter of finding something I can tolerate! LOL

Oh Lord, yes, the cost of eating healthy! It's ridiculous. Fresh produce, decent cuts of meat - it adds up quick. And I live pretty frugally.