Changing my lifestyle this year has not been a straight path. There have been twists, turns and speedbumps. I’ve stumbled, I’ve fallen and I’ve gotten back on the horse over and over again. It’s been an interesting year. I didn’t think it would take me this long to figure it out and, to be honest, I still haven’t. I want to share where I’ve come from, what my journey has been like and where I feel like I’m going.
Where I started:
I started 2015 over 200 pounds and with a simple New Year’s resolution. I’ve made these before, I usually failed. I didn’t expect to do any differently this year but still I said with resolve “This is the year. This is the year I lose this weight. This is the year I improve the physical health of my body.” And so I set off to make a few small changes that I felt like I could manage. I immediately cut out things that I knew were “bad”. I got rid of all the chocolate and general sugar I was eating, I cut out chips and soda and other foods that were obviously calorie dense, nutritionally deficient.
As the weight started coming off, I noticed that I was feeling better with less carbohydrate intake so I gradually started eating fewer and fewer carbs and more fat and protein. I had a “cheat day” once a week, on Saturday, so that I could satisfy my cravings for pizza and Chinese food. This took me down to around 150 pounds and I was feeling really good.
Then something happened. I started obsessively weighing myself. I was stepping on the scale at least once a day, sometimes multiple times a day. I found that the number on the scale was dictating my mood for the rest of the day. I found that I’d be a couple of pounds up after a cheat day and that would upset me.
I discovered intermittent fasting. At first I followed the 5:2 protocol properly. I’d fast after cheat day and one more time during the week. My fasts were water only for 24 hours then a small meal after 24 hours. The weight started coming off again and I was feeling good again. This was when I made my “how I lost 100 pounds post” back in the summer. I was around 140 lbs, which was 100 pounds down from my heaviest recorded weight.
This is when things really went downhill for me. I started increasing the number of fasts that I was doing. I went from 5:2 to 4:3, then I started just not eating over 1000 calories most days and having a “real” fast twice or three times a week. I still had my cheat day on Saturday but my cheats became worse, bigger. I was feeling miserable, irritable and my weight loss stopped completely at 130 lbs. I was incredibly frustrated with the way things were going. I was angry with my body. It wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do. All the math says that being in such a caloric deficit should make one lose a whole bunch of weight, so why wasn’t I?
I recognized that my thinking and my actions were beginning to become disordered and I wanted to put the brakes on it.
I reached out to my sister who has had her own battles with food and weight, she’s a personal trainer and always has good advice for me. She told me that if I were one of her clients, she’d recommend that I stop weighing daily or even weekly. She told me to put the scale away and weigh monthly if at all.
Healing my mind, healing my body:
During this time I discovered two things, the first was the diet protocol of macro tracking, commonly referred to as IIFYM. The second was “reverse dieting”. I decided to do both of these to get out of the huge caloric deficit that I was in and fix my metabolism. Macro tracking has taught me that carbohydrate cutting is great for weight loss but not ideal for weight maintenance, which was what I really needed to be focused upon. At 130 pounds I had no more to lose to be healthy, and wasn’t that my goal in the first place? When I went into this year I was focused on my health. I didn’t want to become a type two diabetic, I wanted more strength and more energy. Starving myself was not in line with those goals.
Over the past month or so I’ve been slowly changing things. I’ve added in a lot of planned exercise including resistance training. I’ve started running. I’ve started eating more, specifically more carbohydrate, and deliberately raising my caloric intake very slowly (100 cal every two weeks) to find my maintenance point. I feel much better, I have more energy, I’m not irritable and exhausted anymore. Because of the way IIFYM works, I’m “allowed” to eat “cheat” food as long as it fits my macros. I still keep “bad” food to Saturday, but it’s helped me control my crazy cheat binges. The last time I had one of those was a couple of weeks ago. I’m still not there completely, I step on the scale too often but it’s not every day anymore.
Ironically, since I started eating more and macro tracking I’ve lost an additional 3 pounds and my waist / hip measurement has shrunk.
What I’ve learned:
- Cutting out carbohydrate to the point of ketosis is great for weight loss but not necessarily for maintenance. It’s also an extremely difficult lifestyle to maintain for very long. If you are cutting carbs, having a carb refeed day once in a while is probably a good idea.
- Intermittent fasting is a tool. It’s a tool that I still count as being in my toolbox but it’s one that I rarely use anymore because I recognize that it quickly leads to unhealthy thinking. It might not for you but it does for me. Be careful with intermittent fasting.
- IIFYM is great. It keeps you accountable. You don’t necessarily have to follow the exact numbers that they suggest on their website, adjust the ratios and find what works for you. The key of IIFYM is eating mindfully and planning.
- If you are in a huge caloric deficit, your weight loss may stop completely. It’s a bad idea to return to your suggested maintenance calories from eating barely anything. Instead, try reverse dieting. Raise your caloric intake by 100 every week or every two weeks; this will keep your weight stable.
- Exercise serves it’s purpose, but that purpose is not for weight loss. You don’t need to go to the gym for 4 hours a day, you don’t need to hire someone to scream at you while you kill yourself on a treadmill. Exercise is good for your overall health; it’s good for muscle definition and energy levels. I always feel better after I’ve been for a run, but I don’t run for weight loss.
- Try not to obsess. If you have a personality like mine I understand this is extremely difficult but weighing daily is more discouraging than it is encouraging.
This year has been a struggle, I hope that those reading this can have some take away from it. You can do it, you are strong, you are capable and you are worth it. Don’t punish your body, don’t hate it. You only get one body, show it some love.