Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Post I Never Wanted to Write {AKA: One Year's Proof I Don't Lose Weight}

*Apologies in advance for the many fuzzy photos in the post, but they are what I have to share at this time. Thanks for understanding. 

Officially, it has been one year since I've lost any weight. There have been a couple of e-mails recently from readers who have been following my journey, wondering when I would update my weight loss page. The harsh reality is that it is updated, despite the fact that there hasn't been a log in many, many months. At the beginning of October 2012, I had lost 60 pounds and it remains at that point today. I know what many are likely thinking... What does any of this have to do with bikes? Frankly, nothing... and yet, everything. On a personal note it obviously affects me, but the reality is that there are others going through similar situations too. The fact remains that if I were carrying less weight, it would simply be easier to pedal a bike making me more efficient, and some would argue (though I could debate this) faster. Because I started this journey with a blog post, it only makes sense that I would update regarding how things have been going, even if that update isn't what I'd hoped it would be at this point.
This is roughly where I started...Sam and I had rode with a group to Boulder before this lifestyle shift. I remember how mad I was that someone was taking a photo while I was eating, which just perpetuated (in my mind) the myth that fat people never stop eating. In truth, I hardly ate on this afternoon, but the image of the plate full of food in front of me, fork headed to mouth, still haunts me.
As I was saying, one year ago I was making plans to lose another 10 pounds by the end of 2012. Little did I know at the time that my body had other plans (If you aren't aware of my personal struggle, you can read back through posts during summer of last year - starting with the first check in - and see that I had set goals to lose weight). Things were moving along so I had no reason to think my weight loss would stop. It hadn't been particularly speedy, and I was proceeding in a manner that I saw as maintainable for life (as I will continue to do), but over the course of not only those next couple of months, but the last year, it has been proven that my body seems to be some oddity of nature.
Some face shots of the pre-lifestyle change.
To all those who choose to bash, shame, joke about, make a mockery of, and so on, let me be an example of those who try so hard and yet still see little to no results. I can illustrate that in fact it is possible to spend a good chunk of time working out, eating properly, and still not see the results in the form of pounds lost on the scale. I stated above that I am an "oddity of nature," but let me say this, I know I am not alone in my current reality. I know others, of all shapes and sizes, who work out and yet don't see any losses on the scale.
Some face shots after losing 60 lbs.
A typical workout week for me includes between 12 (on a bad week) to 20+ (on a better week) hours of hard work (and this doesn't include any errand or other joy rides on the bike). The weeks' workouts consist of several hours of cycling and kickboxing, running, and some strength training to wrap things up. Occasionally, something else is thrown in. For example, last week I attended a couple of CrossFit sessions (my GOD, those people are insane, but awesome!), or I'll throw in some circuit workouts to keep things interesting. For anyone who's ever worked out with me, you know I put my all into it. I'm not one to just show up because I said I'd be there. If I'm there, you're getting everything I have. If I'm not sweating profusely, I'm disappointed and think that it just wasn't challenging enough. Seriously, I have issues. So many issues in fact that working out for me at one point started to become my job. I kept thinking that if I just added another hour (or 2, or 4) a day that I'd see the changes. Unfortunately, it just became obsessive and no weight loss actually occurred. I had to get myself in check and remind myself that I wanted to do only things that I could maintain for life.
On a long road ride pre-2012 (sadly, not at my largest)...I ride, regardless of size or weight because I love it and it makes me happy.
Recently, I read an article in which the author claimed that anyone who works out 20 hours a week couldn't be fat or overweight. Hmm... I beg to differ. I'm not linking to the article because he doesn't deserve the attention, nor are any of his claims based on scientific (or any kind of) fact, but I think this is at the core of the American (and perhaps other nations as well) belief system about the overweight. "If you're working THAT hard, there's no way you wouldn't lose," or "Maybe you just need to eat less" are extremely common phrases that sometimes well-meaning, but often-counter-productive people say. The reality is, it's not as simple as calories-in vs calories-out, as so many would like to believe. Again, I am living proof of this reality.
May 2012 vs August 2012
As far as eating goes, I have good and bad days like any other human being, but the reality is that I eat pretty well most of the time and I always know how many calories I've consumed. I eat a balanced and varied diet, full of greens, fruits, beans, grains and so on. I have tried playing with calories for long stretches of time (both eating less and eating more) and my weight remains the same. There's a well-respected calculator here that tells me I'm not eating enough. Basically, it wants me to eat between 4-6,000 calories a day (and that's to lose weight!), but how much should a person eat if s/he isn't actually hungry? Still, there are many who think restrictive eating isn't the way to go, and while I agree that restrictions only lead to over-indulgences in the long run, I have not given up anything that I didn't want to. In fact, I've never said that I "can't" have anything. I do choose more often than not to forego certain foods because they simply don't make me feel good. I have a strange love of spinach and kale now that I never thought possible, but it doesn't mean that I don't indulge on occasion.
I ride, regardless of size or weight - because I enjoy it
I've read so much that it's overwhelming. It's almost as though there is a conspiracy to keep people overweight (and why wouldn't there be... diet sales - books, products, pills - is a multi-billion dollar industry because people are looking for quick fixes). There are the hardcore enthusiasts of eliminating certain food groups entirely, and there are others who encourage people to eat whatever they want in extremely small portions, but at the core of all of these ideas seems to be that in order to lose weight, one must restrict calories down to almost nothing. I can speak from personal experience and state that eliminating all but a small amount of food each day will not create long term, successful weight loss. I've gone this route far too many times in life and it always ends with gaining weight (usually more than what was lost to begin with).

The great news is that I haven't gained weight over the last year, but because I still have a lot to lose, naturally most people in my life expect that all of the working out, bike riding, running, and so on will result in more pounds lost. I couldn't agree more. It only makes sense that consistency and hard work will have positive results. But, perhaps that is the exact problem... that I'm expecting the results I want to see and not what my body actually wants or perhaps needs at this moment in life. My body has transformed, certainly, and I have so much muscle that my darling Sam has joked that I'm becoming The Hulk or Juggernaut.  I like being strong, don't get my wrong, but it would be nice to see the muscle instead of the overlying fat on the surface.
First belt testing in kickboxing, early 2012 vs several tests later
I've been told in the past by medical professionals that I have a body that would survive famine, and while I'm grateful that when the apocalypse comes, I will be one of the hardy folks who can live through it with little sustenance, we aren't there right now and it would be nice to not have to carry around so much excess. I recently read a blog post in which the author states that slow and steady is the way to go. I think he's right on, but is it really steady if losses have stopped completely, and for so long?
May 2012 (a couple of months in to the new lifestyle) vs January 2013
Let's think about this for a moment and really ponder it. One year... Three hundred and sixty-five days of doing everything "right" and yet staying exactly the same. Burning (through exercise alone) 2-6,000 calories a day, 4-6 days a week (and truthfully, sometimes 7 days a week), and seeing nothing lost on the scale. How demotivating! And yet, I can't imagine giving up my workout time. Something has changed for me over the last year and a half, and even if it isn't my physical weight, I know I am a better person - mentally and physically.
A couple of months after I started this new life (in blue) and October 2013 (in orange). It may not seem as though much changed, but life has warped dramatically, regardless of what shows on the outside.
I don't like putting pictures of myself up on the blog... well, I don't like seeing them anywhere, truth be told. I don't like to be reminded of the body I deal with on a daily basis in picture form. But the reality is that my body has changed - a lot. The changes may not be as visible as I'd prefer, and maybe they never will be, but I am thankful for what I've been given - scratch that, earned [and look forward to being a leader when zombies take over, or when pests wipe out crops :O)]. I may not look like the American ideal of a fit person, but I am capable of more than many others. Speed may not be my forte, but endurance certainly is.

I hope to God that one day I wake up and this never-ending plateau reaches its end, but for now, all I can do is accept the body I'm working with, love it for what it is, and know that I am giving it the ability to perform to the best of its ability. I may not be what the public perceives as an image of health, but I know the truth. I work hard, I am strong, and I am healthy. In fact, I'm testing for my black belt in kickboxing this weekend, so if anyone wants to argue that fact, we'll have a little chat about just how strong I am - or better yet, you can meet me on the studio floor and we'll hash it out. Ultimately, health is what is most important for anyone... scale be damned.

15 comments:

  1. That must be super-frustrating for you.

    For what it's worth, you look so much healthier and happier. And it's not just -er's (happiER), you look GOOD!

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  2. I think you look amazing! You can really see a difference in the photos. I did UK Slimming world for a while and it worked for me, it is basically healthy eating not a diet. Anyway, if weight loss slowed down or plateaued, the group leader always asked if 1- are you eating enough? Fill up on fruit and veg 1/3 of every meal and snack on fruit, veg and low fat protein like lean meat. 2- are you getting enough variety? Try not to eat the same old meals and vary what exercise you do, otherwise your body gets used to what you are doing and losses slow down, so you need to keep mixing things up. Anyway, being fit and healthy is far more important than being skinny!

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  3. I think you look wonderful - healthy and happy. And, since I have scrawny genes, I envy of your ability to develop so much muscle!

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  4. I've been reading for a while, but haven't commented until now. This is such a brave and beautiful post that it brought me to tears. There is a tremendous difference between your before and after shots. I'm amazed at the difference. But more important that the progress you've made is the point you make about how hard it is to resist fat shaming. You are beautiful, and you were beautiful even before the weight loss! Thank you so much for sharing these photos and reflections.

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  5. I do believe, like you suggest, some bodies are hardwired to be super efficient calorie-wise. Personally, I blame my Irish side of the family - but my ancestors did survive the potato famine and many did not.

    You look great and must feel way better than you did prior to weight loss. I can imagine you feel a lot of pressure to conform to some ideal weight - as dictated by some elements of society. I know a lot of women feel that way, although not all men think like that and actually appreciate curvy women. (Yes, I know some men do prefer skinny sticks and are often not kind about their preferences.)

    However, I bet your blood pressure and other health metrics are much better with your cycling exercise routine. I suspect you can now do many things in life that were once a chore. Partly because you lost 60 pounds (60 frigg'in pounds!), and partly because you are more fit muscle-wise and aerobically.

    So feel proud of yourself!

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  6. Thank you to all for your kind words. I appreciate each of you taking the time to share your thoughts/feelings, and it's particularly nice to hear from those who don't normally comment. Thank you so much.

    Someone sent me a "Strong is the new skinny" meme the other day and I couldn't help but smile a bit. I know it was meant entirely as a compliment, but the reality is we all have different body types and not everyone can be super thin... just as not everyone can gain muscle as easily as some others. I wish the world as a whole could reach a place that would allow for all body types without the shaming/bashing. Just as I've experienced "fat bashing," I have friends who have had to endure the other side of comments for being "too thin" as determined by the person making remarks. I try to remind others (when the time is appropriate) that we cannot help our genetics. Just as the comment above states that they have "scrawny genes," I am working with some very solid and stout German/Italian genes. We do what we can with what we have, for sure. :O)

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  7. You look great and should be very proud of all the weight you've lost, even though you'd like to lose more. I'm sure you will begin losing again, but in the meantime, you're strong and healthy, so just keep doing what you're doing. :) I was once one of those people who were called "too skinny" (in fact, my family gave me the nickname Twiggy) and it made me really angry at times. I would actually have strangers comment and ask how much I weighed!! I'm fairly "normal" now, so luckily don't get too many comments such as "you'll blow away." Like you said, we all have different genetics, body types, etc. Right now, I'm very envious of anyone simply being strong and capable of biking, running, walking, etc. I had knee surgery (medial patellofemoral ligament reconstruction due to a dislocated patella) 8 weeks ago, so am looking at most likely 2-4 more months of recovery before being able to do much of anything other than therapy. I can't even walk normally yet, so it's a constant struggle to just get around, much less do the active things I'd like.

    Hang in there - you really do look great as you are!

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    1. Traci, I hope you heal up quickly. I can't imagine having to go through that sort of surgery and then the long recovery time to get everything back to normal. Hopefully, you'll be back riding before you know it. :O)

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  8. Muscle is heavier than fat.
    Compare your profile pix of January 2013 to October 2013 above. You gained strong, dense muscle and significantly reduced fat. That muscle requires (burns) calories 24 hours a day...even when you're sleeping!
    Don't focus on the weight, you've made tremendous progress.
    Wish I had your determination and drive!

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    1. Determination... or craziness - either works. :O) Thank you.

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    2. Getting healthier and stronger is seldom crazy. Stay on course.

      Written as I sit here munching popcorn. (See my comment above "Wish I had your determination and drive!")

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  9. You are beautiful in every single one of those pics. I'm amazed at what you do. I live in CO too and I think you are up there as one of the most athletic. And yes, I know a lot of Ironmen. :)

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    1. Ah, an Ironman... one of these days. Truly, some sick part of me would love to tackle one. :O)

      Thank you... Now if I can get over my current bout with the flu, I'll be back to fighting here in the no time.

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  10. Great job! You certainly have the perfect bike. Keep it up!

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    1. ;O) Love that the Riv Hillborne came from your shop! Still riding and enjoying it (even though I keep changing it up).

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