Ten pounds — meeting my first weight loss goal

Bananas


The week I joined Weight Watchers, I was feeling pretty low. Despite getting engaged less than a month earlier and still feeling the jolt of excitement about that, I was overwhelmed — emotionally, physically, financially. Combined with getting in a minor car accident the night before, signing up for a weight loss program just felt like another source of guilt and frustration. Especially since I wasn’t sure I could succeed.

It was mid-January: gray and listless, cold and drab. I was out of sorts and anxious. After talking about wanting to lose weight for more than a year (and dealing with a health scare in December), my fiance suggested we join Weight Watchers together. Feeling as bad as I did, I agreed. Spencer met me at our local spot on a Wednesday night, arranging for us to sign up and do this together, and his presence calmed me . . . but I wasn’t convinced.

Because food is awesome.

Snacks and meals are more than sustenance: for so long, they were also comfort. Nothing makes me crankier than walking around feeling hungry, and nothing sets me up for a meltdown like being denied a good meal. “Good meals” for me were filled with my favorites: pastas and breads; cakes and candies; vegetables simmered in balsamic vinegar. Spencer loves to cook, and I love to chow down. A match made in heaven!

Here’s the thing: my story isn’t unique. Like many of us, I was physically active in college out of sheer necessity; going to school on a huge campus, I could easily walk five miles a day just getting from classes back to my car. Despite never being “skinny,” I could eat what I wanted because I was out and about so much. My weight wasn’t a huge issue.

Then came graduation. Leaving College Park for a desk job meant I was now sitting eight hours a day, and exercise and I have never been buddies. The constant advice to “find an activity you love!” has just never worked for me . . . because seriously? Don’t like running, don’t like dancing, don’t like the elliptical. My stint at the gym was a failure — and the fees piling on my credit card for unused passes another source of guilt. Though I initially liked Zumba and attended regularly for months, making the meetings became a strain on my schedule. But honestly, I just didn’t want it enough. Because I didn’t change my thinking or my eating, I saw no results.

As they always say: If you want it, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

Well, I ran out of excuses. Less than a year from my wedding day, I was by far the heaviest I’d ever been. Despite being overjoyed at the idea of our marriage, I had triggers igniting stress in so many facets of my life . . . and I still do, of course. I just feel better equipped to handle them.

Because I took control.

I’m far from a health guru, and I can only speak to my own experience. I don’t work for Weight Watchers and am not an expert on the program, either, but here’s the thing: in less than two months, I’ve already lost 10 pounds. I’m back in pants I haven’t been able to wear in years. I no longer dread clothes shopping, and I loved seeing myself in my future wedding dress (that’s another post!). In celebration of meeting the first of my goals, losing 5 percent of my weight, I bought my first pair of “skinny jeans” — and am actually okay with wearing them in public. To work, even. And it isn’t the scariest thing I’ve ever done.


Skinny pants


The path still stretches out before me. At 5’2″, I’m still 25 pounds from the “high” end of my suggested weight — and am still considered obese. But 10 pounds? That would have been crazy to pre-January me. But seeing myself in photos from Christmas and getting a glimpse of myself now, I can already see a tremendous change . . . and I just feel better.

Happier.

More confident.

More in control.

And proud.

Does Weight Watchers mean giving up your favorite foods? Well, yes and no. Not giving them up, but changing your portion sizes. And the frequency with which you eat them. I won’t go into the ins and outs of the program, but the jist of it? Keep track of everything you consume and keep it under a certain limit each day. Do this — really, honestly do it — and you will lose weight.

I’m not forgoing cupcakes forever and ever. I am definitely still eating out. Heck, I’m not even exercising . . . at all. (Though I do plan on changing that soon, and I know it’s nothing to brag about!) What I’ve done? Realigned my thinking and kept serious track of everything I eat.

For an OCD list-maker like me, tracking my food and drink has been much simpler than expected. I actually love the science of adding points and tracking, and religiously update my personal tracker after each and every meal or snack. And here’s what else I’ve learned:

You can’t eat what you don’t have. This works both ways, y’all: I can’t eat the bad stuff if I don’t have the bad stuff, and I can’t eat the good stuff if I haven’t stocked up on it. I need healthy snacks on hand 24/7, and my favorites include the 100-calorie packs of almonds as well as fresh fruit and vegetables. And in that vein . . .

Keep it accessible. Look, I’m kind of lazy (see: hates to exercise). If a snack requires me to cut, peel or dice at work, where I spend most of my time, I won’t bother. Sitting at my desk means I have limited resources as far as cutlery is concerned, so I make sure to prepare my fruit in individual portions before I leave for the day. I wash and rinse grapes, for example, putting them in cute little bags, and then I grab them from our mini-fridge at work and get to snacking. Much better than rooting around in my coworkers’ candy bowl when the 3 p.m. munchies hit.

Watch your portions. Pre-Weight Watchers me didn’t necessarily eat terribly, but she ate too much of everything. Honestly track your portions and remember that eating several small meals rather than two or three giant ones can do wonders for boosting your metabolism — and keep you from crashing. I’ve shifted from eating a big lunch and bigger dinner to a small lunch (low-calorie soup and a low-fat cheese stick) with several healthy snacks before dinner. I rarely go more than an hour or two without eating something, and I make sure to eat a small snack after dinner, too.

Don’t walk around hungry. As soon as a twinge of hunger hits, I reach for an apple or the like. Allowing myself to get too hungry means I’m in danger of crash-eating later in the evening, overindulging in dinner or snacking like a maniac. This ties in with my first point, too: you can’t eat it if you don’t have it. So keep it around.

Breakfast really does matter. Old me would either skip breakfast completely or eat a measly granola bar, then walk around hungry for hours before going for a huge lunch (which would just sit in my stomach until dinner). New me doesn’t let herself get to the point of “starving,” and makes sure to eat something healthy and protein-rich — like low-fat Greek yogurt and bananas — each morning. Though I’m far from a breakfast person and don’t like to eat big meals in the morning, this has made a huge difference. It really does matter.

The buddy system works. Let others know about your journey. Starting on this get-healthy journey with my fiance has made a huge difference — and just having the support of another person is so crucial. I’m also very lucky that my friend and officemate is also on Weight Watchers, so we swap tips all week long! Another friend has just joined the program, too, and we met for a “Weight Watchers-friendly” lunch earlier this week. Letting others know about your goals really will make a difference.

Have a plan. When I know I’m going out for a meal, I pull up their menu ahead of time to figure out the best options for me. This eliminates awkwardness when out with others (I hate having to be on my phone at the table, perusing the Weight Watchers app), and keeps me from making impulsive decisions. When I know I’m cooking, I calculate various ingredients and actively work on “lightening” the recipe.

It’s okay to be tempted. Before embarking on this change, I would still eat dessert — but feel terribly guilty about it. Here’s where I go all Weight Watchers very-unofficial spokeswoman on y’all, but that’s the great thing about this particular program: it doesn’t require you to follow a diet. No food is “banned.” I simply keep track of what I’ve eaten that day, budget in the cupcake or candy, and go about my business. Guilt: eliminated. As long as I’ve stayed within my daily points allowance (or even if I haven’t), it ain’t a big deal.

And that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned so far . . . I can do it. I am strong enough. Just because I can’t have a cupcake today doesn’t mean I can’t — or won’t — tomorrow. I’m not eating weird things; I’m not unfulfilled and chowing down on diet food. I’m still sharing meals with my loved ones, still enjoying cool meals out with friends, still doing all the normal things I’ve always done . . . I’m just making smarter choices while doing it.

And physical success aside, it feels good to have found an aspect of my life where I can make positive changes and see real results. Not having “need to start losing weight!” in my headspace has opened me up to new opportunities, and I haven’t dreaded seeing doctors for routine appointments. I’ve proven to myself that I can lose weight, and that feels amazing. Regardless of whether I drop another 2 lbs. or 20, I’m just seriously proud of myself for altering something I once considered set in stone.

And that’s what I’ve been up to.


If I were waiting for a sign, it would be that number

{Image via Google Images}


I totally fell off the Zumba wagon.

After getting excited about finally finding My Thing — some form of exercise I actually like — I was a faithful Zumba attendee. My friend and I went for months (and actually, she never stopped). I had my corner of the room where I could see the instructor well. When I began to feel better and more fit, motivation cam easily. For the first time in my life, I actually felt like I could move.

But.

Life gets in the way. There’s no real reason why I stopped. My weekly routine was thrown off following a death in the family, and then my motivation scattered like glitter in the wind. I was more likely to leave work and drown my anxieties in crocheting or wandering around than actually exercising, and I stopped making class a priority. My sister bought a Zumba DVD, and we dance to that occasionally, but exercising for 45 minutes once a week isn’t going to accomplish anything.

At a doctor’s visit last week, the nurse had me step on a scale. Totally routine, of course, but I was just there to get some cold medicine — and unprepared for that number. People say, “Oh, I didn’t realize how much weight I’d gained until I saw myself in photos” — and I certainly have cringed at the way I’ve looked recently.

But reality didn’t sink in until I saw that ugly number. The highest it’s ever, ever been.

I’m finally realizing I can make excuses or make things happen. I could sit around all day coming up with reasons why I’m too something to exercise — too tired, too busy, too tied-up, too overextended — but the truth is this: we make time for what matters.

I ended my month-long exercise dry spell by going to class on Thursday. It was hard. Any momentum I developed in the four months I went seemed to have evaporated, leaving me stiff and awkward. Some of the movements came back to me and a few of the routines were the same, but for the most part? It felt like starting over.

But maybe that’s a good thing.

Starting over, and starting again. Better this time.

It is time.

Finding ‘My Thing’ — or, an adventure in Zumba

I’m a shapely woman. I recently heard a lady lamenting the fact that her “thighs can touch” and could only snort with laughter that . . . well, that someone could have thighs that don’t touch. I mean, really — what must that be like?

I don’t know. I don’t bother to ask myself impossible questions.

Still, I can’t play off my weight with bravado all the time. I’m a confident person and know I’m not unattractive, but I’m not always happy with how I look. But who is, right? I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone not looking to drop five pounds or so.

Or, you know. Forty.

My boyfriend and I joined a gym last year and went pretty faithfully . . . for a while. We switched gyms, Spencer moved, I went on several trips in a short period of time and, before we knew it, our routine was destroyed. My one-time enthusiasm for treadmills had worn thin. Mustering up the energy to work out became torture — and gradually, we just stopped going.

You know those Kaiser Permanente commercials — the ones that encourage you to “Find Your Thing”? There has to be one form of exercise that interests you, they say. There has to be something that doesn’t feel like a new form of suffering invented solely to destroy you. You just have to experiment until you find out what it is.

I know how important it is for me to get to and maintain a healthy weight. Since I’m also short, my ideal weight is ridiculous. Medically, my ideal weight is between 107 and 141 pounds. I haven’t been around 120 pounds since middle school, and I can’t envision getting back into 13-year-old me shape anytime soon.

And you know what? I wouldn’t want to. This isn’t about being skinny. This is about feeling confident in clothes that aren’t bursting at the seams, and being able to travel without feeling like the slowest thing goin’. This is about setting myself up for healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Though I was briefly scared straight while trying to fit into a bridesmaid dress for my friend’s beautiful wedding in September, I fell back into old habits as soon as the nuptials were over.

But I’ve found something.

I’ve found A Thing.

My friend Sandy — officemate; fellow reader — is often trying to find Her Thing, too. Over the years we’ve been seated within eyesight of each other for eight hours a day, every day, we’ve shared our battles with weight and exercise and continuously sought something that might work. Last month, Sandy heard about a dance fitness class held two nights a week. It was conveniently located for both of us and, though I’m probably the world’s most awkward dancer, I agreed to give it a shot. You could pay by the class — no commitment.

So now I Zumba.

For the first few classes, I was so afraid of embarrassing myself that I could barely follow the moves. Our instructor is young and sassy, friendly and encouraging, but I was petrified of looking really stupid. Sandy and I stood at the back of the room. I focused only on completing the dance moves in a class of more than 50 women, most of whom seemed to know far more than me.

But time has passed. I’ve gotten into a groove. After more than a month, I find myself relaxing into the routines and recognizing the songs. Once stiff and uncomfortable, I’m now relaxed on the dance floor. Many women joined the class after us and we’re no longer the “new ones.”

And last Thursday, Sandy and I were almost at the front of the room.

Nothing gave me a jolt like seeing a gaggle of giggly teenage girls in the back of the room. They were tall and lean and wearing the shortest little short shorts you’ve ever seen, bare midriffs on display. Mind you, the average age in our class is probably, oh — 40, I’d guess. Our little buddies thought they were the hottest things going.

When the first pump of the music began, I felt myself drift into the beat. Sandy and I often laugh during routines, refusing to take the whole thing too seriously. Zumba is really just dancing like crazy, and it actually is fun. And I felt strong and fit. As we segued into routines I knew by heart, I got a glimpse of the teens again.

They had no idea what they were doing.

Our instructor is all about “Zumba love.” I know it’s not nice to judge people who are just trying to work out and have fun — same as me. But did it feel good to see those skinny chickadees completely dumb-founded in the middle of the room, wickedly uncomfortable and unable to land a move correctly? My size-12 tail was a-shakin’ while they tried not to bump into one another, unable to catch up.

I couldn’t help it. I smiled.