It took me a year and a half to lose close to 40 lbs. It took an additional five years for me to give up on struggling to maintain an illusive number in exchange to pushing my body to do things beyond my own expectations three to five times a week. OrangeTheory Fitness is a workout regimen that has built-in goals called “Benchmarks.” These Benchmarks keeps me motivated and provide continuous new goals to work towards.
I remember when I ran 10.0 mph for 30 seconds, I thought to myself, ‘that’s not bad for an old lady.’ And then I remember when I continuously improved my 1-mile benchmark time from 9:43 to 7:42, again, I thought to myself with satisfaction, ‘that’s not bad for an old lady.’ And when I completed my first full Dri-Tri (2000m row followed by 300 bodyweight exercises and finished with a 5k) in 47:46, I thankfully did not finish last in my heat and again, I thought to myself, ‘that’s not bad for an old lady.’
Up until I saw the 1-mile benchmark results and was pleasantly surprised that I out ran others 5,10, 15 years my junior. I thought to myself, ‘that’s not bad for an old lady.’ When I finished my first full Dri-Tri, I was shocked that I came in first for my age group and completed the simulated triathlon under participants 5,10,15 years my junior. And still I diminished my accomplishments and thought quietly to myself, ‘that’s not bad for an old lady.’
I just completed installing a paver patio by myself and I came to conclusion that maybe I have been selling myself short and instead of saying ‘that’s not bad for an old lady‘ maybe it should be ‘just not bad.’
It has been almost six years since I have reached my weight loss goal and maintained it. Maintenance has been challenging and complicated with the burdens of getting older.
Along with the natural aging process of added wrinkles and sprouting of salt in our pepper the physical evolution is both noticeable and impactful. According to a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information:
One of the most striking effects of age is the involuntary loss of muscle mass, strength, and function, termed sarcopenia [1–3]. Muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30 and this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60 [4,5].
Some basic knowledge about muscle verses fat: #1 Muscles burns more calories than fat #2 Muscles weigh more than fat #3 We naturally lose muscles as we age
Therefore the true fountain of youth is to at a minimum, do enough strength training to mitigate the rate of natural muscle loss. Sounds simple enough but for someone who has been overweight and have been groomed to attribute success to set numbers, numbers on the scale and number of the BMI calculation, purposely engaging in an activity which would result in weight gain was very difficult task to embark upon.
But embarked I did … repeatedly … and failed. My vicious cycle of starting regular strength training, gain weight, panic, and quit continued through the majority of my weight maintenance. Until one day, a Facebook ad for a free class at OrangeTheory Fitness changed everything. OrangeTheory is HIIT training classes where every class has a session on the treadmill, rower, and strength training. It is the first time that I’ve stuck with regularly strength training for more than a few months. I absolutely adore the muscle definition on my shoulders and arms & every time I glanced at myself in the studio mirrors, I internally giggle a little.
HOWEVER, along with the muscles, my weight crept up … uncomfortably so. My old struggles with weight resurfaced and I continued to battle with a higher BMI and how the number on the scale was defining my alleged failure. I weigh myself on a weekly bases and if I had lost weight I was emotionally elated, relieved, empowered. But when I gained weight, I was defeated, depressed, and felt incredibly fat. It was heartbreaking to watch the numbers on the scale continue to climb even though I religiously attended OrangeTheory classes a minimum of four times a week.
This passed spring I completed my first full DriTri at OrangeTheory. DriTri is intended to simulate a triathlon with 2000 meters on the rower, a total of 300 body weight exercises on the floor, topped of with a 5K on the treads. I was stunned that I was not the last to finish in my heat, but more importantly I noticed that my overall finish time was better than some members 10 -20 years my junior! It was a testament to all the sweat equity I had invested for the last 4 years but it was also a validation that despite what the scale stated, I had no reason to feel defeated or be depressed about and I certainly was not fat.
And with that, I made the decision to forego the scale going forward. I have stopped my weekly weigh ins and as a matter of fact, I haven’t weigh myself for a little over a month now its quite liberating. I figured if I continue to eat responsibly and continue being physically active, the scale is a tool I no longer needed with my weight loss maintenance journey.
That number signifies the number of consecutive days I have logged into MyFitnessPal. I have not missed logging my meals for a little over 8 years. MyFitnessPal was the game-changer which forever impacted the way I eat, what I eat, and how much I eat. To physically see the number of calories I consumed in ratio to my physical activities (or lack there of), it educated me and held me accountable for my choices.
It’s like balancing a check book but instead of money, the currency is calories. So for example, if I had 340 calories to spend, do I want to drink it away via a Starbucks Tall (12 fl oz) White Chocolate Mocha at 340 calories or would I rather eat a 4oz turkey sandwich on Brioche bread for about 270 calories? When put into those terms, I would always opt to eat my calories over drinking my calories. And its small incremental lifestyle changes like this which allowed me to lose close to 62 lbs and keep it off for almost 8 years – refusing to be a participant to the weight loss statistic of weight regain.
I often still struggle will the little things because the inner fat girl is never far behind. I distinctively remember being particularly excited in purchasing a brilliant orange red sweater from the Loft after stalking it to go on sale for months. When it finally arrived, I pulled it out of the packaging and instantly a wave of cold sweat poured over me, a knot developed in my stomach, and I felt fat. I held up the XS sweater and it looked so ridiculously small that I was convinced that I was too fat to fit in it – not that the sweater was too small but that I was too fat. I tossed it down on the bed and was disgusted with myself for having that extra slice pizza a week ago. It took a few days before I would gather enough nerve to try it on and it did fit me perfectly but instead of taking pride that fitting into an XS was the result of my hard work, I discounted it and chalked it up to luck. And to some, this all may sound utterly ridiculous because I didn’t have 100+ or 200+ lbs to lose, but losing almost 40% of my original body weight and keeping it off should be a celebration in it of itself.
Being in weight loss maintenance, I have had to continuously make slight adjustments to my nutrition with little effort. However, finding a regular physical activity to keep me active & motivated has been challenging because I am naturally lazy and a homebody. From hours of research, I know that losing muscle is a natural part of aging and since muscle burns more fat it means that it makes no difference what nutrition choices I make, unless I consciously counter the muscle loss, as I get older, I will continue to put on weight even if my food choices doesn’t change at all. Strength training has been an Achilles heel, my personal kryptonite. Intellectually, I understand the importance of strength training, that muscle weighs more than fat, and that non-scale victories should be my weight loss maintenance goal. But emotionally, its really difficult to let that number on the scale go – to let that number on the scale not trigger fear of getting fat. Every time I regularly strength trained (3 times a week) I gained weight. I would see a number on the scale that frightened me and I would quit. This vicious cycle continued until I found OrangeTheory Fitness . It is HIIT training which incorporates two forms of cardio and regular strength training. It is highly effective. It provides a wide range of goals for me to work towards. It has helped me develop nice muscle definition on my shoulders and my arms. But it is at the expense of my weight – or at least the weight I would prefer to be rather than what I currently am. I have to learn to redefine what thin should look like for me and it is an ongoing struggle but I see role models like Ernestine Shepherd that keeps me pushing forward through the fear.