Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Comparison Photos

Me December 2010, about 6 months before starting to lose weight,
close to my highest weight ever.
Me June 2012, just over 12 months in and down 106 pounds.
Me July 2012, 13 months in and down 114.6 pounds.
(Ignore the fact that I was having a bad hair day and had it all pulled back into a pony tail you can't see in the picture!)

I Like It! I Really Like It!

As someone who has been overweight practically my entire life, physical activity is not something I have ever really enjoyed.  With a family that had no interest in sports, the outdoors, or anything that required any kind of physical activity, I was never encouraged to participate in anything that would promote physical fitness and my family never did anything like this together. As a child and teen, the required gym classes in school were complete torture for me.  Things like running relay races, rope climbing, or even playing games like basketball were never fun, but instead, typically left me in tears because I never had the strength, speed, stamina, or energy my classmates always seemed to have. 

The one exception came during high school, when my love of playing music and acting edged out my hatred of being active only slightly, but it was enough that I was in the marching band throughout high school and for one year of college, and performed in many stage shows that involved choreography and basic dance.  I credit my involvement in these activities as helping me keep from gaining even more weight than I did when I was younger. 

When I first started my weight loss journey 13 months ago, I did a little bit of exercise in the beginning, but my heart really wasn’t in it.  I dove into the deep end immediately where my food changes were concerned, but I still made a lot of excuses for not working out regularly.  I still felt like the chubby little kid that just wasn’t cut out for exercise, so I pretty much gave it up until I was 11 months in and had lost almost 100 pounds.  It was at that point I resigned myself to the fact that I really needed to start working on toning while I continued to lose and move forward towards my goal weight.

Over the last 2 months since I joined the gym, things have changed drastically for me.  I have found that I actually love working out!  I won’t sugar-coat it…it’s been hard work, but as the saying goes, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!”  I checked in with a trainer before I got started initially, and he gave me specific instructions for both cardio and strength work to do 3 times each week at the gym, and he told me to make sure to get in an hour of some other exercise (swimming, group classes, at home DVD’s, etc.) at least 2 other days each week.  At the end of each month, the trainer works with me again to assess my progress and add new things to my workout program, which has involved adding new exercises as well as increasing sets and reps, and increasing how much weight I’m lifting. 

For the first time in my life, I can truly say that I look forward to exercising.  I don’t give up half-way through, and I don’t skip out or cheat on my schedule.  I have made it a priority.  Some days I go to the gym at 5:30am, other days I go at 5:00pm.  Some days I’m in the middle of my living room with the furniture pushed back and the dog trying to stay out of my way.  Wherever or whenever, I am determined to take care of my body and work towards making it the best it can possibly be.  I have dumped the excuses, and instead have chosen to view each workout like this:

I don’t stop when I’m tired.
I don’t stop when I don’t feel like doing it.
I don’t stop when it hurts.
I stop when I’m done.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Taking Inventory

Our children are getting ready to start back to their new school year in just a few weeks, and in preparation, my husband and I have been talking about what new school clothes we need to buy for each of them.  Since our school district wears uniforms, our kids have to have two wardrobes, one with their shorts, slacks, and polo shirts for school, and one with their jeans and t-shirts and play clothes.  Since they haven't been wearing their school attire for the last couple of months (and have grown considerably over the summer as kids tend to do), we've been taking inventory this week to figure out what pieces each of the boys need for the new school year, and what garments they can still fit into from last year (which isn’t very much!)

So what does this have to do with weight loss?  I'm glad you asked!

It all comes down to this...

You have to figure out where you are before you can determine where you're going.

I can’t appropriately buy my kids the new school clothes they need unless I know what they’ve got in the closet.  I can think they are good on slacks and not buy any, then when the weather turns cold, find out all they have is one pair of pants that have the knees worn out of them.  In the same way, a person can think they're doing all right with how they're eating because they're “balancing” things with a diet soda and a salad occasionally, or bypassing a second trip to the buffet, or eating grilled chicken with rice from time to time, when in reality, their body is not getting the nutrition it needs to thrive, they're gaining weight from all the junk food, and all they’ve really putting into their body is coming up short!

When I first started on my path towards a healthy life through weight loss and exercise, I began my food journal.  I did not make any changes to what I was eating, but simply logged the calories (and other nutritional data) into the food journal app I have on my phone.  The reality of the number of calories I was regularly eating astounded me!  I promised myself I would never treat my body that poorly ever again.

Before I started losing weight, I was not someone who ate multiples of food (sometimes you'll hear of overweight folks who eat like 8 eggs, 12 pieces of toast and a pound of bacon for breakfast, or an entire pizza, 2-liter of soda, and whole bag of chips for dinner).  That wasn't me.  I ate “normal” meals, in that I was eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, with little to no snacking, and not eating tons of food at each meal.  My problem focused more on what food items I did eat.  I was eating fast food meal combos for breakfast and lunch most work days, and often having full-sized restaurant meals a few times a week for dinner.  When we cooked dinner at home, we used to eat lots of pasta and other heavy entrees and never measured out proper portions.  As a result, back then, it was nothing for me to eat more calories in one meal then I do in an entire day now without even considering the nutritional value (or lack thereof) of what I was eating.

Taking inventory is an important first step to losing weight.  Let me encourage you to start a food journal of your own.  There are lots of great websites and phone apps available that make it very simple and easy to keep track.  The one I use takes me less than 5 minutes a day to track everything I eat and drink.  When you come face to face with the true number of calories you’re consuming each day, along with the amount of sodium, cholesterol, fat, sugar, and carbohydrates you’re actually taking in, you may be as shocked as I was.  It may not be pretty to see the numbers, but it’s worth it if it causes you to start making healthier choices like it was for me!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Make a Choice, Make a Change

I recently ran across this saying, "Life doesn't come with a remote.  You've got to get up and change it yourself!"  Boy, did that resonate with me!

You see, it doesn't matter what aspect of life you're talking could be weight loss, your finances, your job, your friendships, your marriage, your walk with God, or anything else you're dealing CAN choose to find an avenue of change.  All too often, however, it's easy to think that there's only one way to change a situation, and you just can't seem to put your hands on it. 

It really is like the television remote.  You may be at home, with the TV all to yourself, happily watching your favorite show, and as it ends, something you really don't like at all comes on.  You want to change the channel, but you can't find the remote.  Your kids aren't around, so you can't call them in to come and change it for you.  You dig into the couch cushions, push the dog out of the way, and look under the blanket you're cuddled up under.  No remote.  You look again at the show that's starting and think, "hmmm...maybe this show isn't so bad after all," because you don't want to get up.  Before you know it, you've zoned out in front of a show you don't really like, but since it was there, you accepted it.  It's easier to just watch what's coming on then it is to make the effort to get up, walk across the room, and change the channel at the TV set itself. 

Isn't that like what happens in our life sometimes?  One day, you're going along, feeling like you're on the right track.  You're happy and enjoying the path you're on, but then, something comes your way that isn't the best thing for you.  Because of the effort it would take to change things for the better, you sigh and get comfortable with the mediocrity, negativity, or undesirable situation that has presented itself.  After a while, it feels like things have been this way for so long, that it would be impossible to make a change, so you just live with it, feebly appreciating today because you figure tomorrow will probably be worse.

That's how I used to feel about my weight.  I had resigned myself to the belief that being overweight was just my lot in life and that it was something I would always have to live with.  My clothes that I bought one month probably wouldn't fit the next month because I would most likely gain a couple more pounds before I wore them again.  It would stand to reason this would happen, since I have a family history of weight issues.  My parents were/are overweight and unhealthy.  Their parents were overweight and unhealthy.  So it stands to reason that I would be overweight and unhealthy as well...or does it?

The turning point in my life came when I realized that I was NOT powerless over my weight.  But, in order to do something about it, I had to make a choice to make a change.  I had to stop sitting idly by wishing and hoping things were different.  You can stand in front of the mirror all day long, hating what you see and desperately wanting to look and feel better, but nothing's going to happen until you decide to do something about it.  I chose to make a change, and after losing 108 pounds so far, I'm confident I will reach my ultimate weight loss goals.  Goals that a year ago were only a dream.  Goals that today are becoming my reality.  All because I made a choice and made a change.

Get up and change the channel...

Friday, July 6, 2012


Motivation.  This is one of those buzz-words that gets thrown around a lot in different settings.  For instance, an employer wants to motivate his employees to increase sales.  A coach wants to motivate his team to win games.  A teacher wants to motivate her students to learn the course material, and so on.  But what is motivation, really?

According to one definition, motivation is, "providing with a reason to act a certain way" (thank you,!).  When I was young my mom used to try to motivate me to clean my room.  The reason behind it was that if I didn’t, I would be a in a lot of trouble, so her reasoning was plenty good enough for me at the time!  As a child, I didn’t want to clean my room all too often, but due to the parental pressure my mom was able to put on me, and the power she held over the consequences if I didn’t respond, I would eventually give in and get the job done, albeit reluctantly.  Hearing my mom recite the benefits of a clean room, however, was not enough to cause me to commit to keeping up with it, and every few days mom would have to, ahem…shall we say,  “encourage” me to clean my room once again.  It wasn’t until I moved out into my own home that living in a clean and orderly environment really became important to me.  Then, I no longer kept things neat because someone was looking over my shoulder and forcing me to, or trying to get me to buy into their way of thinking about it, but instead, I embraced the idea for myself and it became a part of me.  I keep my home nice because that’s how I want it to look.

This same principle holds true where weight loss and healthy choices are concerned.  It seems like everywhere you look, someone is trying to motivate you by shouting, “You need to loose weight!”  It might be the pressure of society that holds to a stereotypical view of what constitutes beauty.  This may come through portrayals in media or through the attitudes and opinions of people around you, sometimes even from close relationships.  Life and health insurance companies may be applying the pressure for you to meet their underwriting guidelines.  Your doctor may be telling you that you’re facing serious health issues if you don’t get your weight down.  Somewhere along the way, someone is trying to get you to do things differently for reasons they deem important, whether you buy into their reasons or not.

No matter where the voice originates, having someone else tell you that you need to make a change is rarely received well, especially when it deals with something as personal as your weight.  At best, some people temporarily cave to the pressures others put on them in this area.  They might lose a little weight initially, but because their reasons for doing it are not truly their own, it doesn’t take long before they falter and often regain what they lost, and then some.  This results in greater frustration and feeling worse than they did before.

So, how do you lose weight successfully and keep it off?  One of the answers to that question is that the motivation, the real reasons behind it, must truly be your own.  You need to know that you’re passing up fast food because your body functions so much better when you eat wholesome foods, not because someone else makes fun of you for eating french fries.  You have to want to give yourself the best chances at living a long life by reducing your weight, rather than having someone try to make you feel guilty that you may not live to see your grandchildren if you don’t drop some pounds.  You have to want increased strength, endurance, and the ability to function better in daily activities for yourself, rather than feeling like you have to look a certain way to impress people.  You have to believe that your body was a gift from God and should be treated with respect and well cared for, instead of accepting the super-sized portions and nutritionally void options that are so cheap, widely advertised, and readily available.

Having the proper motivation puts the “why” behind the “what” and enables you to make the right choices and leads to a healthy lifestyle!

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Marathon...In Bits and Pieces

I am, by nature, an extremely organized individual in many areas of my life, and weight loss is no exception.  Keeping up with data and creating charts and graphs has helped me identify trends in my progress and lets me readily see what efforts produce the best results.  In addition, having information such as my body measurements, BMI, BMR, body fat %, and other metrics on hand helps me see that this journey is about more than just the numbers on the scale.  Seeing the number go down on the scale is not my only goal.  Improving my overall health and fitness is also very important to me as well.  When those things are in balance, the numbers on the scale will follow.

On one of my progress spreadsheets I keep track of each of my workouts, including the name of each strength-training exercise, the number of sets and reps I do, and the weight I’m lifting (or pushing, pulling, etc.).  I also log my cardio work by what I’m doing, the amount of time I spend doing it, the distance I’ve gone (for swimming, walking, etc.), and my total calorie burn.  It’s quick and easy for me to use and with a glance I can see where I’m at each week and I can challenge myself to go a little further each time.

Today, as I was entering the stats from this morning’s workout, I realized something I found exciting!  Since joining the gym, I’ve included treadmill work in 18 of my workouts.  In the course of those 18 workouts, which totaled 9.9 hours of time, I have walked/jogged a total of 26.3 miles, which is just over the distance of a marathon!  Now, I understand full well that I have not, by any means, had the experience of actually participating in an actual marathon, but knowing that I have covered that distance over a few workouts feels pretty amazing to me!  Let me explain the significance of this…

When I look back to the time before I started implementing healthy food choices into my life regularly last June, mobility had started being a serious problem for me.  Due to issues with my sciatic nerve causing terrible back and leg pain (as the result of falling some time ago and it being unable to fully heal because of my weight), things as simple as moving from a laying down position in the bed to sitting up, or rising from the living room couch were excruciating, and often could take 30 minutes or more.  It was often accompanied by a lot of pain-filled tears and much prayer for strength and healing.  Once I was finally up and about, walking any distance over just a few steps was typically out of the question.  Even trying to make a short trip into a store would find me hunched over the buggy trying to relieve the pressure on my back within just a couple minutes of walking in.  Doing anything that required me to be on my feet for more than 5 minutes was next to impossible. 

As hard as it is to admit, being as overweight as I was before I started this journey, my life was hindered in everything from sleep, to playing with my children, to travel, to just about everything else that required physical activity.  When it’s painful to sit, stand, or lie down, there is little respite. As my weight has come down, however, the back pain has subsided greatly and my mobility has improved to where I don't have to worry about it anymore!  I now look forward to getting out and about and I’m not afraid of being somewhere that requires a lot of standing or walking.  The only time I think about getting around in a situation these days, is when I stop to realize how great it is to move freely again, and then I say a prayer of thanks to God for it!  I still deal with pain from time to time, but it’s not constant anymore, and it's nowhere near as bad as what it was before, and I believe it’s only going to keep getting better as I continue exercising and losing weight! 

So, when I look at my workout log and see that I’ve walked 26+ miles, it makes me see just how far I’ve really come and it gives me the motivation to keep going, because I know I’m definitely headed in the right direction!  Maybe...just maybe, one of these days, I just might go all 26 miles in the same day!