Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In which this loser is married to a winner

When you lose weight and get fit, you get all the credit.

All the compliments, all the kudos, all the praise and glory.

And that is fun and rewarding, for sure.

But in my life, there is one person who deserves just as much admiration as me, and that's my husband.

I've batted this subject around in my head on many a run and I never got down to writing it, but I thought today it's fitting as it is our 14th wedding anniversary.

Yes, I did all the obvious work, but Keith has done untold heavy-lifting behind the scenes. He may not be in the gym with me or eating how I eat, but he's done just as much work, with no public credit.

Just a few examples:
  • All the childcare when I am at bootcamp or out on a run. Every Sunday, our Sundays don't start, really, until my long run is over. Then we can begin our day. If I have a race, push any plans back further. I get up at 5 am six days a week for work or working out. Every Sunday, Keith lets me sleep in, enjoy a leisurely breakfast and then go run, all while he's wrangling children (almost 7, 5 and 3), baking them cinnamon rolls and trying to wake the hell up himself. 
  • He's supported us on his one income with three young kids and still somehow finding a way for us to afford bootcamp, 14 months of Weight Watchers, the gym, $85 running tights, race fees, you name it. (Yes, I work part-time for Weight Watchers, but that income doesn't pay many bills.)
  • He's watched me fall asleep like clockwork about 35 minutes after I sit down on the couch every single time we try to watch TV together. God bless him for all the one-sided conversations he's had with himself before he realized I was asleep or about to be so with some nonsensical, mumbled answer to his question. After the kids are in bed and we finally get time to ourselves, alone, to relax and de-stress with "our" shows, I fall asleep. Every. Time.
  • When I'm about to lose it, he lets me get my shit together, whether it's eating a meal or getting out of the house. 
I am positive person and that is on full-display here. But I am human. I struggle. And, seriously, when my program gets hard mentally or the scale is not moving, you do not want to live with me unfiltered. On the days it's hard and the kids are driving me crazy or work is demanding (or both, God help us), I just want to eat myself into a coma. But I can't and it's full-out war in my head. I am fighting every single instinct and habit in my brain and it is not pretty.

That pressure valve has to release somewhere, and I can be a bitch, to put it mildly.

When you love someone who's trying to change something fundamental about themselves, be it food, another addiction, habit, what have you, it's not easy. Nor pretty. Those spouses/partners deserve so much praise because supporting that person in any way they can is "Wuv, twoo wuv," to quote The Princess Bride.

I was at a healthy weight when we started dating. I was overweight when he got married and I was obese by the time we started having children. Never once did he get on me about me weight or told me to start shaping up. He left that up to me and I would guess silently suffered as I did, waiting for my head to get in the game. He loved me at 287 lbs and he loves me today. 

And, a reminder, he's seen me through 100+ lb weight losses twice. Twice. Not only was it richer or poorer, it was having and holding through thick, thin, thick and thin again.

He's seen me at my best and at my worst. And on those nights when he walks through the door and everyone in the house is yelling and/or crying and it's all hitting the fan, I am constantly amazed he has never turned on his heel and left for a calmer port, like Kabul.

And for that, I am truly grateful. I may be a loser, but when it comes to a husband, I am the biggest winner I know.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In which I've maintained my loss for a year

Last Nov. 1 I stepped on the scale at my regular Weight Watchers meeting and realized I made my personal goal weight.

A year later, I'm still there.

I just want to let that sink in for a bit. Historically, I've been excellent at losing weight, but terrible at keeping it off.

This is such a big deal, and to me, it's more impressive than losing 125 lbs in the first place.

All my life, I would strive, strive, strive for the "finish line" and once there (or when I got sick of striving) return to my same-old, same-old eating habits and behaviors.

I'm not sure why that was, other than maybe mentally I still had not gotten my head around the fact there is no "finish." Ever.

I don't like to bring that up to people who are in the losing process as it sounds depressing, dire and unattainable. But, you know, it's the truth.

So what was the difference this time around? How am I maintaining successfully?

A few thoughts:

I accepted that there is no finish line. There is no "on" or "off" program, you are on all the time, forever, end of story. Yes, there are lax - or outright bad - days, for sure, but I get right back on the horse, tracker in hand. I can't do what I did in the past and expect to hold on to what I have.

I embraced the PointsPlus program. Given its flexibility, PointsPlus is a program I can work for the rest of my life without too much mental stress or any depravation. When I gain weight, I can lose it. When I lose it, I can maintain it. It's so doable and realistic, I can live my life and enjoy food within reason.

I set goals away from the scale. Registering for races has keep me running and running has kept me motivated and moving. Training plans for big challenges such as half-marathons have given me a series of incremental goals spread over a period of time, goals that I achieve and of which I can feel very proud. These longer-term challenges and training plans have me constantly looking ahead while simultaneously working on them today - a potent combo.

I want to make it clear, however. You do not have to run if you don't want to. So many of us weight-loss bloggers run and love writing about it, I worry that people think they have to become runners to become healthy, fit, happy, people.

There are plenty of other activities that are challenging and amenable to goal-setting. The key is to find one you enjoy.

I found activities I enjoy. In addition to running, I love going to bootcamp twice a week. If you asked me on that first day, "Will you still be here in 18 months?" I'm not sure what I would have said. Probably, " *#&$, no!" But I'm so glad I have.

I accept I am a work in progress. I have decades of bad decisions, behaviors, habits and emotions surrounding food. I understand that it will likely take decades to unravel those knots and replace them better ones. No more expectations of perfection, no all-or-nothing.

I am kind to myself. I refuse to beat myself up. I still have bad days, but I restart as soon as I can. I also try to pull something positive out of it. If a decision went wrong - why? What caused it? What could I do better next time?

I work for Weight Watchers. Those of you who don't know me in real life are thinking, "Wait, what?!?" I haven't blogged about that very big part of my life because it's not smart to blog about your job unless you're paid to do so or own the company. I have neither, so I haven't.

I've been working for WW since last November, first as a receptionist and now as a leader. The job has challenged me and given me more than I ever expected. And one unexpected benefit has been that everyone on staff is a Lifetime member maintaining their weight. So if I'm having a problem, I can ask questions, commiserate, whine or beg for help when I need it. Maintenance is an art and you need other Lifetime members who get it because no one else truly does. Working several times a week with other Lifetimers has provided me with a built-in support system for which I are so grateful.

I am not perfect, nor do I have it all figured out. I am a work in progress. And if you're a work in progress, there's only one thing you have to do:

Keep working.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

In which it's a beautiful morning

For 40.5 of my 42 years, I have never been a morning person nor, really, an "exercise" person.

So you could imagine how I would fare as a morning exerciser.

However, when I knew it was time to add regular workouts to achieve my weight-loss goals, I realized it had to be in the early morning, before the kids woke up. I tried doing DVDs during my youngest's afternoon nap, but when she crashed, I wanted to, as well. Getting a sweat on was not my first choice. Plus, with the other two kids under foot there was always an interruption.

Zero Dark Thirty it is, then.

I started getting up around 5 am and it took a good two weeks to not feel like hot death around 2 pm. But I realized that once I got in the swing of things and got my bedtime/wake-up time synched with enough sleep, it was doable.

I can't tell you how many times I've pushed myself through a workout with the mental urging: This is the hardest thing you have to do today. Get through this and the rest of the day is easy by comparison. By 7:30 am, the hardest part of your day is done.

I was thinking about this last Thursday during a run. I stepped out of the house at 6:30 am and it was dark. Pitch black, like, middle-of-the-night dark. I stood there for a second wondering why (later I realized we wouldn't turn the clocks back for another 3 days) and then headed back into the house to get my reflective can-see-me-from-Mars jacket and light.

I started out under a full moon, which was spookily darting in and out of thin, wispy clouds. Running my backwoods route, in the pitch black, under a full moon the day after Halloween: half-cool, half expecting a zombie to come at me from the woods.

As cars whizzed past, lit only by headlights, I was grateful for my jacket and light. On a side note, I see a ton of pre-dawn runners out without reflective gear. Seriously? A death wish. At least get a light.

Soon, the dawn started to break, as if someone was slowly turning up a dimmer on the sky. I got to the halfway point of my out-and-back, which that morning was at the crest of a small hill. I paused for a second and looked around, noticing the sun was streaming out over the horizon. The sky was pure blue. The hardy, remaining yellow and orange leaves on the trees seemed to glow as far as I could see.

It was so crazy beautiful, a gift I would never have received had I not become a morning outdoor exerciser. I would never see, nor appreciate, the sunrise over a gorgeous fall morning in Massachusetts. I am not a nature person, never have been. For me, camping is best done in a hotel where there is a comfy bed, no bugs and maybe a minifridge. So to really appreciate and enjoy this is quite the sea change.

So there I was, standing on top of this hill, looking out over a beautiful sunrise, early in the morning and I thought, for the zillionth time in the past almost 2 years: Who have I become?

Yes, I knew I could lose weight. But look what else came with that determination. I became a runner - a half-marathoner. A person who goes to bed early to get up early, go outside and run through the back roads of New England. And actually like it. All of that? Things I never expected but for which I am very grateful.

I feel like working out in the morning outdoors is almost like a secret club. We get our workouts done and sometimes it is the most beautiful setting just for ourselves. Whenever I see another runner or cyclist on the road at the same time, I always want to look at them, like, I know, right?

I'm not saying predawn is the best time to work out because the best time for you to work out is any time you will do it. What I'm trying to say is the beauty of the outdoors and this quiet time with nature is a gift I never expected to receive, but one for which I am very grateful.

The other day I was mentally running through my week while driving. I swear, it's like I have a cable news crawl constantly running at the bottom of my consciousness: Karate today, 4 pm...Daisies tomorrow, 5 pm....interview today, 2 pm...article due tonight....out of Chobani, get to the store...15 PPV left today...

Anyway, one of the things on my crawl was that tomorrow was Thursday and I immediately thought: I get to run. Not I have to run, I get to run. Whoa.

And that is what always amazes me about getting healthy and fit. The gifts you receive reach so far beyond the scale or clock. The unexpected are the sweetest and most cherished.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

In which I try Bikram Yoga

Bikram yoga has been on my to-try list for well over a year.

I know people who enjoy it a lot, and the thought of a totally challenging, yet totally different activity from my regular running or bootcamp was appealing.

It seemed rather complementary to my two favorite workouts, and this afternoon I was finally able to finagle my schedule to give it a go.

But, as excited as I was to try, I was a little nervous. I had never tried Bikram before and it was outside of my comfort zone.

I have been running for almost two years and bootcamping for a year and a half. Even though I'll never win a race and I now only occasionally hit myself in the groin with a medicine ball, I do know what I'm doing, and that "I'll Make A Fool of Myself" mortal fear is long gone with both pursuits.

Returning to that slightly nervous area outside my comfy activity playpen was a little disconcerting. But, I remembered that not that long ago I was scared to run outside and I was scared to try bootcamp. And look what happened. I found two activities that I really, truly love, and have given me so much more than improved health and fitness.

Therefore, I shaved my legs, put on a fresh layer of deodorant and headed to the studio this afternoon for the 4 pm class.

I got there early to get a lay of the land: where do I put my shoes? Can I rent a mat? Where's the bathroom? And, most importantly, to ensure I got a spot in the waaaay back of the studio.

I indeed got a spot in the back of the room, which is heated to 100 degrees. I had concerns about how I would handle the heat, as I'm not flocking outside during the summer on such days, but - really - it was a dry heat. I laid down my mat and followed everyone else's lead: flat on my back, quietly relaxing like a lizard on a rock in the Mojave.

I could get used to this.

Soon, the instructor came in and we got down to the poses - 26 in 90 minutes. The instructor stood on a low platform in the middle of the room and, like a DVD commentary, narrated the class through the poses with a series of instructions, form checks, inspiration, reassurance and funny stories.

There were several new students in the class (which had about 24 people at 4 pm on a Saturday, impressive!), thank goodness. The instructor was very encouraging to new students, which I really appreciated, underscoring that we shouldn't try anything that causes pain or try to keep up with veteran practitioners.

Amusingly, I had to keep remind/stop myself from the temptation of Keeping Up With The Flexible Joneses. I'd look at some frighteningly flexible person, battle those natural competitive instincts and think, "OK, this literally is your first day with this. Do what you can and no more."

In prep for the class, I drank 64 oz of water throughout the day, and I had another 32 oz on hand for the class itself. Yes, like everyone else I was sweating like crazy, but the heat was comforting and soothing. My body felt like a lazy pretzel and I liked it.

Some poses I could do, others I had to modify quite a bit. I looked around the room and saw many others - newbies and vets - modifying, too. I saw all sizes and ages - it was no bikini triathlete supermodel class, thank goodness.

At one point, the instructor mentioned two quotes from Bikram Choudhury, creator of this discipline:

"Mess with the gods, don't mess with your knees" and "Kill your body."

The latter sounds pretty severe, but the instructor explain that what he really meant was "Kill your ego." Leave it at the door, come in and listen to your body. I loved that.

Soon, the 90 minutes was up and I was a puddle. I stepped out of the warm, welcoming bosom of the studio and into the changing/waiting area.

At first, the cool air was refreshing, but it soon turned into the realization, "COLD! I AM COLD!" I threw on my sweatshirt (which now has to be washed ASAP) and walked to the car.

As I walked out I took a mental inventory. I felt really, really good. Refreshed, relaxed and loose. The poses were challenging, yet doable, I will try to jam a class into my schedule every week.

The more I thought about it (and sweated), the more I realized how very good it is to be a beginner again - at anything. You're open and excited, and your ego is idling, not in overdrive.

You're learning and doing and trying something new. You may love it, you may not, but the real victory is in the trying; that stepping outside your comfort zone where real true growth occurs.

When I try new things, I'm still hesitant here and there because that fear of embarrassment still lingers. But I try, anyway, and that's a win every time.

When I was overweight (aka, all my life), I rarely tried anything new - especially activity - for fear of embarrassment. When you're overweight, you want to blend in, not stand out.

But now, even though the nerves are still there a little bit, I push through. I know no one else in class is watching me, except for the instructor, who just wants to me to relax and enjoy.

So I did.