Wednesday, September 26, 2012

You Really ARE What You Eat

About a month ago I was feeling pretty physically torn to bits. I am not quite sure how to explain it. It was a general feeling of just being filled head-to-toe with...crap. Like I was a walking burlap sack of ick. I felt mentally foggy, physically sluggish, jittery, anxious, depressed...my body hurt (more than normal for a 44-year old woman) and I was just a blob of dull.

Kind of like I used to feel when I smoked; at least this time around I could breathe.

I had back surgery this time last year. The aftermath resulted in spending the better part of a year eating all wrong, giving in to my sugar addictions on a daily basis, drinking ONLY coffee and diet soda all day and eating out at least three times a week.  I lived the “I work, I have two kids, there’s no one at home to help share the cook/homework/referee tasks” lifestyle.  I had also lapsed into the ugly mindset that every time I worked out at the gym, I reinjured my back,  therefore I could no longer do the intense training that I was used to and that meant I wouldn't lose weight. And never mind hiking local canyons that I had been really enjoying. Up until very recently, walking a city block in a leisurely stroll would send me to the couch for the rest of the day.

On top of all that, I’m getting old(er), so my doctor put me on some regulatory medication (not that kind of regulatory, thank you very much) which has side effects of “water weight gain and acne.” Nice. NICE! It was like living my teen years all over again. Except with bad eyesight, joint aches and peeing a lot.

End result: my Fat Jeans I had folded up in a drawer “for camping purposes” were pulled out of the drawer in desperation one day. And they didn’t fit. I mean, they did. I could walk in them. And even sit. The zipper stayed up. Nothing busted, split or ripped. That's good, you know. Buuuuut.....yeah, I didn't expect it to be such a chore to get them on.

That sucked. SO. HARD.

I knew…I KNEW after surgery it was going to be a battle for me. I KNEW if I didn’t eat right, things were going to go wrong. Not right away, but slowly, surely, the bad eating habits built up and the depressive mindset creeped in, anchoring its roots right there on the smallest, darkest nodule of my brain where it grew and flourished in that dank spot under my skull. It said: “You cannot lose weight. You are doomed. You can’t work out anymore, what’s the point of eating healthy, nothing will get you back to where you were! Give up. Give in. You. Are. MINE. Getttttt faaaaaaaaatttttttt.”

So I did.

Oh that just depressed the hell out of me. It affected my new relationship with my boyfriend. It affected my moods. It affected everything about me so that my outside and my inside were well-matched. When I am physically active and fit (not skinny, mind you...I’ve never been skinny and that’s ok), I feel good about myself. When I am lethargic and overweight, lumpy, dumpy and couchy, I mope. And I feel about 30 pounds heavier than I really am, which is worse. I honestly was surprised to learn my weight had only sprouted about 10 pounds from the year before at a doctor's visit.

I hate to make this a thing about “my looks affect how I feel about myself”. But this is me. I don’t pretend to speak up for the world…I only speak for me. When I eat bad, sit around and balloon out, I don’t like myself. Period.

Health experts, both physical and mental, would, I am sure, extol the virtues of exercise and endorphins and how certain foods affect both our mind and body, etc., etc., etc. You know, without a PhD I cannot claim to make any educated statements about that stuff. All I can tell you is what I know about me from my own experience:

When I eat crap I feel like crap. When I eat well I feel well. When I am lazy I get depressed. When I am active I feel good and energized.

Really, I don’t think you need to be a neurophysicist (is that even SPELLED right?) to understand the ABCs of what I just said. This is stuff they teach in elementary school. So why is it such a big epiphany for me? For anyone? America is FILLED with obese people. Why and how do we let ourselves eat so badly? Why have our brains been conditioned to believe we need more, more, more and that processed foods and foods built on an assembly line are acceptable for living? I have FOR SO LONG been treating my body like a rusty bucket of bolts fueled with cheap gas and sludgy oil. It’s time, before I flippin’ die, to treat it like a Porsche. Ok. Ok. At least...at least a Lexus.

So. Long story (sorry) short, I started Weight Watchers a month ago. It was exactly what I needed after months of saying I had to do something. It kickstarted my motivation and broke that depressive sit and eat mentality that had been doing pushups in my head. I have already lost 9 pounds. I finally can wrap my head around the eating right thing. I used to track EVERYSINGLECALORIEIPUTINMYMOUTH. Think that was hard to read?  Tracking every calorie is a lot of work!! I created a form that I filled out every single day with my caloric intake and expenditure. I lost weight, but I lost it slowly. And I had to work out REALLY hard to get that weight loss.

I now realize that the way I ate was ridiculous even then. I counted every calorie, but I didn’t focus on the TYPE of calories I ate. As long as it fit into my 1500 calorie a day quota, I didn’t care if I ate a donut or a candy bar or a hamburger. What I have learned in WW is that a 100 calorie pack of pretzels is metabolized differently by my body than a 100 calorie apple. Tracking WW points is exponentially simpler than adding/subtracting calories every day. I still have a 300 calorie minimum burn goal in my workouts, but I don’t obsess over what I burn throughout the day like I used to.

Today I eat more whole foods, lots of veggies and fruits. I drink a TON of water, I gave up diet soda a month ago, discontinued the “I Want to be a Fat Teenager” medication (those two factors alone might be a big part of my fast weight loss) and drastically reduced the refined sugar I eat.  I know how my sugar addiction goes and I feel like if I even put one M&M in my mouth it’s gonna be war. The good thing is I have substituted our nightly “dessert” with homemade all natural fruit-only smoothies. They are waaaaay better than ice-cream and my kids are feeling the benefits of healthier choices in their diets as well.

I have gotten back into the gym and I listen to my body. If I feel like what I am doing puts too much strain on my back, I ease off. The best thing is that because I am eating healthier and losing weight just by eating right, I don’t feel that obsessive urge to push myself past the edge of sanity at the gym. I worked SO flippin’ hard for such slow – albeit GREAT – results in the past, I made my body fall apart in the process.

So. Today is weigh-in day. I have steadily lost about 3 pounds a week. Last week was difficult, I found myself going slightly over my daily points on more than a few occasions, but I figured out that I wasn’t eating enough fruits and veggies during the day to keep me satisfied, so I was nibbling on WW boxed snacks and that is a red flag for me. Too close to that “get it quick at the vending machine” behavior. So I have stocked up at work on more of the good stuff. Which has the added benefit of having to get my butt out of my chair, walk to the kitchen and get my snack. Because I am eating healthier  I feel and see a difference in my skin and my hair. I feel lighter…not bloated.  These are the motivating factors that keep me going. I feel like I can actually lose weight and it can be achieved healthily and easily. (A mindset that losing weight is hard is a very difficult obstacle to overcome).  I have hope. I have my main goal and lots of little sub-goals to keep me working forward. I like the weekly meeting and weighing in and really like how my clothes are fitting again (some new pants I bought are actually falling off and those Fat Jeans are going back in the drawer thank you very much.

I have finally paired eating right and exercising and it is a very rewarding thing. 

I.

Feel.

Better.

I don’t feel like a soggy waffle anymore. I feel like….a Strawberry Smoothie. :)


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