Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Heavy Lifting

I'm a big fan of Jennifer Hudson, but I couldn't name one of her hit singles. This is one of those admirations of a person's life moreso than their life's work. It's not to say that I don't like her music, but I've never been compelled to buy any of her singles/albums. (I did really dig her role in the Sex and the City movie, however.)

I am a fan of hers because she has always been a classy, lovely woman since being thrust into the public eye some number of years ago. A classy, lovely woman with a curvy figure, and one that she has made even lovelier by getting down to a healthy size. I mean, look at her! She's gorgeous!

Well, I don't often talk about this openly, but I have been overweight for my entire adult life and most of my adolescence as well. As my father says, I come by it honestly--both of my parents have struggled with weight issues for as long as I can remember. However, I'm more inclined to think that when it comes to maintaining a healthy body--barring any congenital conditions--it's more nurture than nature. Whatever my issues are/were, ultimately, I have the ability to control this situation.
October 2008 visiting Tina in Kansas City

Over the last 2.3 years, I've shed about 52 lbs, or 21.5 inches. I'm pretty proud of myself, especially because it came as a result of a lifestyle change and by no means as a result of dieting. No food is off-limits unless I simply don't want it or don't like the way it was prepared (or processed...I'm pretty preachy-preachy when it comes to high fructose corn syrup, dyes, artificial preservatives, jacked up sodium, etc.).

However, I've been frustrated for a long time because 52 months is a long time to take off 52 lbs! I know why it is, though. I've been avoiding crossing a line with myself. I heartily support behavioral support type programs like Weight Watchers, but I've loudly declared time and time again, "That is NOT for me. I can't become one of those people who counts every calorie. I just can't." Okay, hot shot, so why is it fine for everyone but me?

The truth is, I have a mildly irrational, but very real fear of eating disorders.  I have not been diagnosed with one, nor do I think I ever could have been, but I have seen the effects up close and personally, and ever since then I've been afraid of "going there" with the calories.  I've been afraid that counting them is the first step towards becoming an obsessive-compulsive person who gets racked with guilt over every little thing that tastes good.

January 2011 with two of my co-workers at the annual company holiday party
When it comes to making a lifestyle change, though, my approach of moderation mixed with regular exercise hasn't been enough to get the results I want and, frankly, need. I'm not to where I want to be. I'm a good 30 lbs away from it. This weekend I finally admitted to myself that I have to "go there" with the calories. People like Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Osborune got to where they are by doing the hard work and becoming very conscious of what they eat. Calories in, calories out. Period. They also have personal trainers, but I'm not using that tired excuse. Maybe I can't afford a PT right now, but I can afford to sign up for a free web service and start logging everything. I love Daily Mile and I hope that someday they'll add a nutrition component too, but until then, I've started using MyFitnessPal.com.

This isn't the first time I've kept a food journal, actually.  I did make a half-assed attempt back in December 2006/early 2007, which was when I joined a gym for the first time and lost a pretty significant amount of weight in a relatively short period of time.  (Most of which came back by mid-2008, right around the time I canceled my gym membership...go figure.)  The difference is that this is the first time I've started using an online service with calorie counts. Actually, this site is cool because they do total net calories, meaning that if you log your exercise activities along with it, they will take that into account as well.

I started tracking this weekend, and let me tell you, it's bringing about quite a range of mixed emotions. On the one hand, it immediately curbed my behavior in nibbling on little bits here and there because I plain ol' don't want to have to not only go write it down, but then go look it up on the damn website! So that's a good thing. However, on the other hand, it has made me a little bit scared to eat. If you know me well, you'll probably find that funny and sad because I enjoy eating and I am the first person to fuss at you like a mad hen if I find out that you "forget" to eat or purposely starve yourself, even for a day. It's true, though--I've found myself paralyzed in the kitchen, physically and mentally weighing my options. I've dished out beans and rice to myself using a dry quarter measuring cup, eyeballed all of my food before I so much as bite into it. When you don't know what a cup or an ounce of something really looks like, though, how can you not? That's my whole point...I have had no clue about how many calories I consume in a day. I suppose it's been the right amount to maintain my weight. Any major losses I've made have probably been a result of my activity level, not my food intake, because I've refused to make it a focus. I was afraid that doing this would make me lose control, become obsessive, and eventually lead to some sort of counseling. Irrational fears are powerful stuff. What I'm starting to realize is that it's quite the opposite. I actually feel more in control than I ever have before.

So this will be interesting, this new venture of mine. I'm thinking about starting to train for a 10k this year too. I have to re-assess my schedule, because lately I've only been going out for a run on Fridays and that's clearly not going to cut it.  I have dance class on Monday and Wednesday, go to Zumba on Tuesdays (which could be a good running day, but I love Zumba and I feel like it's a good way to keep my body on its toes, literally), and Thursdays I have a weekly ritual with some good friends where we eat dinner together.  As for the weekends, I've severely disliked running in my [busy, crowded, dusty, stop-light ridden] neighborhood the few times I've done it.   I've got to figure out a way to overcome all of that without resorting to driving somewhere else to get it done, though.  My friends and I have tossed around the idea of switching Thursday dinners to weekend brunch, too, especially if I end up having to take a class on that night.  Oh, and don't even get me started on how worried I am about keeping up with my workout regimen if/when I get into grad school!

Ah, well, one day at a time!