“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
~ Maya Angelou, American Author/Poet
Nine-Four-Nine, that is the number reflecting my continued cult-like diligence to logging into the calorie and exercise app – MyFitnessPal. Although that may seem impressive compared to some, that number is still very much in it’s infancy.
Nine-Four-Nine is not simply my number of consecutive days of logging, it also marks a milestone – my two-year weight loss maintenance anniversary. It was indeed 2 years ago when I reached my goal weight and have maintained 100% what I have lost. A feat which statistics had adamantly testified was out of reach for most. An impossible ordeal to obtain. And like a card player at the Blackjack table in Vegas, the odds were very much stacked against me but here I stand, 2 years-in, giving the statistics the proverbial finger.
The Key: The secret to my success? On the verge of sounding like Neo in “The Matrix” … “There is no spoon.” I wish I had an easy answer neatly topped off with a bright shiny bow, but alas, I do not. What I can offer are bits of self observations that will hopefully help ‘flip the switch’ for whoever maybe reading this post. Just be mindful that everyone is different and this is just what has worked for me.
From the Start: My initial goal had never been solely about losing X lbs in X time for X event. Losing weight was certainly a factor to measure progress but my ‘big picture’ goal was always to become as healthy as I can & as far away from developing diabetes as humanly possible. The luxury of time took a tremendous amount of pressure off.
Be the Tortoise Not the Hare: Having tried multiple times, with all the standard array of weight loss methods and ultimately failing was oddly good for me. It was good because based on all my past failures I learned that in order for the results to stick, whatever change(s) I was going to incorporate into my life to not only reach healthy but to stay healthy, had to be sustainable … as in ‘rest-of-my-life’ level of sustainability (a tall order). Unlike previous attempts I didn’t dive head first plunging into a totally new eating plan and go to the gym 5-days a week to only give up 3 weeks later because I didn’t see any results or was just burnt out. Nope! This time I had wisened up that I needed to make small incremental changes in order to banish my old habits for the rest of my life. For example, the amount of sugar I use in my tea. Over a period of a year I went from 4 TBSP → 2 → 1 → ½ TBSP → 1 TSP → all the way to what I am using now which is 1 Dash. I continue making small incremental changes even now in maintenance. I am always looking to make this lifestyle easier by maximizing efficiency. Like continuously swapping out nutritious poorer foods with more nutritious rich foods. Or an exercise which works more muscle groups at once rather one at a time. I call this the ‘most bang for the buck’ approach. For example, I only do compound exercises. If I am on the elliptical I set it to high resistance and vary my stance in varying degree of the squat position. This not only gets my cardio in, but the resistance & varying positions builds muscles. Kill two birds with one stone … so to speak.
Example of small incremental changes: 4 TBSP → 2 → 1 → ½ TBSP → 1 TSP → 4 Dash → 3 Dash → 2 Dash → to current 1 Dash
Where Everyone Knows My Name: To finally understand and accept that there were really no finish line, that reaching goal was just a stepping stone to the bigger, grander scheme of things … aka maintenance was utterly daunting. Perhaps the oddest phenomena of losing weight was the loss of support from my existing social circle. The initial banter of support somehow evolved to an aire of backhanded compliments and insinuation of an eating disorder. As my social circle shrank my feeling of isolation grew. I became disheartened with the monumental task before me. What I needed was to build a network of support. A network of those who collectively had given the statistics the same proverbial finger. RAWR! 🙂 I began to actively procure fellow maintainers as MFP friends & this was one of the two pivotal turning point in my maint journey. Having MFP Friends, although it was mostly virtual, tamed the soulless bewildering beast that maintenance can be. Maintenance became a soft little purring kitten quietly curled up on my lap. It provided an outlet to share my frustrations, to ask questions, and the simple camaraderie gave me a sense of that I am a part of something special. ❤
Drop a House on That Bitch: Two numbers was the other pivotal turning point in maintenance for me. 80/20 (Rule). To say that I was hyper-vigilant in my losing weight phase was putting it mildly. OCD came in handy to adhering to a set daily caloric number. hahaha The same approach which helped me reach goal was actually quite counterproductive in maintenance. I was incredibly disappointed that I was unable to stay 100% compliant 100% of the time … for the rest of my life. I realize that sounds rather ludicrous but the strict adherence is what helped me reach goal so naturally in order to stay there I just had to continue no? I constantly struggled with snacking after dinner and I have had my fair share of occasions where I said ‘fuck it I’m having some cookies n cream ice cream’ followed by cookies, then sweets. Just as I licked the last bit of chocolate off my fingers, a tremendous sense of guilt and failure would ensue. And of course this feeling of self disgust at the total collapse of my ‘willpower’ or perhaps it was just a genuine detrimental character flaw resurrects the super hyper vigilant sadistic controlling bitch (aka me) to be even more boisterous. It was a cycle which became evident that what I was doing was no longer working and the internal tug-of-war was a miserable existence. Then in researching nutrition for a blog post I came across an article referencing the 80/20 Rule. If this was a television sitcom exalted angels would be singing in the background complete with a beacon of light shining gently upon my little head. It was brilliantly simple. To maintain, all I needed was to eat on plan 80% of the time and then 20% of the time, if I so chose, I could indulge within reason (portion controlled). The minute I gave myself permission to eat what I wanted was the minute that I stopped craving it – it’s just human nature I suppose.
Jedi Mind Tricks: We all can borrow a page from Stuart Smalley. His daily self affirmation is “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.” As corny as that may seem Stuart is on the right track.
There is a genuine disconnect period after weight loss where the brain hasn’t quite caught up with the new physique. I’m not sure what the science behind it is is but it’s fairly common that the fatty mentality lingers on well after the weight is gone. For example, it took me about 2 years to wear leggings because my mentality was ‘oh I can’t pull that off.’ SO the odd thing that I have done and continue to do is partake an activity of the youth … I-take-selfies! Yes I can hear the eyes rolling but hear me out. We see ourselves everyday and it’s easy to take things for granted. By taking snapshots of myself I am visually reinforcing that I have indeed changed. Every now & again when I just don’t ‘feel’ like I’m making any fitness progress I go take a selfie. When I see my bicep getting more defined or my bat wings less wing like, I get excited, I get pumped, and I’m super-charged to continue to do what I am doing. Self-affirmation and re-motivation is an important part of sticking with it. Another quirk I’ve developed is that I carry a photo of fat me around on my phone. It’s not very different from a child with a new toy. In the beginning they are all about it but after awhile they get tired of it and want something new. I think it’s very typical of human nature in general, not just children. Every now & again, I do get use to being the new size and grow callous to all the time & effort that I’ve invested to reach the new size. My brain would start to think, ‘hmmm, maybe it’s time to take a break from the exercise or the eating.’ This is when I pull up the fat me photo then look at the healthy me photo and on the verge of sounding self-absorbed I let myself marvel at the transformation. This visual helps remind me where I was and that what I’m doing every day does indeed matter. Because at the end of the day, we have to be our own best advocate. SO yea go on, be a bit more like Stuart, take some selfies, and allow yourself to bask in your accomplishment!