My Response to Emily: A Spark to a Flame, Find Your Kindling For Weight Loss Success

Hello friends! I’ve been remiss in posting here. While I have been posting regular video updates to my channel on YouTube, I haven’t always been linking those here. I am a bad, bad blogger. I guess I’ll make up for it today by posting a blog the length of a short novel, so sit down and get comfortable!

The last couple weeks have been a swirl of transition with me starting back to work. Things have been going… ehhhh, okayyyy I guess?

Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. Going back to work after being off for well-over a year is no walk in the park. Starting any new job is mentally exhausting (which of course leads to physical exhaustion as well), so I’ve been struggling with feeling really tired in a way I haven’t in a very, very long time. But it’s a GOOD tired. It’s not depression tiredness, or slug tiredness; it’s a tired sensation that has heaps of satisfaction underneath. And mornings are invigorating for me in a way they haven’t been in so, so long. I’m looking forward to going in to work every day. How crazy is that?

So despite my genuine efforts to be a superstar and knock balancing my new job with my healthy lifestyle outta the park on the first swing, I’ve still felt like I “haven’t been doing enough” in terms of activity by not formally hitting the gym three times a week. The fact that I was weighing myself every day and seeing the scale go up did not help mental matters. But I was bringing all my food, tracking it, walking around the office as much as possible to get my Fitbit steps in, trying to drink as much water as I could reasonably do while wearing Spanx (pro tip: spanx plus hydration doesn’t work – plus spanx cause me severe constipation, who knew?!?), and taking 15-minute walking breaks each day after lunch. All this while trying to absorb a lot of new information and process… I’ve been totally kicking ass! And yet, feeling funky about my weight.

And then I ended up hurting my foot and putting myself out of commission (and work) for 4 days last Friday night. **CHARLIE BROWN AAAAAAUGH** So yeah, last Friday I planned to go to the gym after work. Packed my gym bag and was all set to go, but mid-day I realized I had left my sports bra at home. Um. These knockers REQUIRE sports bras for anything jumpy I do at the gym, so, harrumph. But I was still DEAD SET on getting some activity in. So I decided to walk the campus at work (they have these 2, 3, and 5-mile fitness paths available) and get a 2 mile walk in.

But I took a shortcut and didn’t change my sneakers. BAD IDEA. The sneakers I wore to work didn’t have my orthotic inserts (also a BAD IDEA), so by the time I was finished with a 2.5 mile walk, my proverbial dogs were barking. Got home, took my shoes off and put my feet up for a couple hours, but when I got up to go to bed I COULDN’T WALK. My right foot was totally out of commission. Couldn’t bear any weight on it and hopped on my left leg into bed hoping overnight rest would fix it. Nope.

Long story short: trip to urgent care revealed a bone spur near my Achilles tendon’s insertion point on the heel, but they couldn’t help me. I spent all day Sunday on the couch. It wasn’t until yesterday afternoon that I could actually put my heel on the floor and put any pressure on it. By the time my appointment with a podiatrist rolled around, I was about 75% recovered. (Yay!)

But this hiccup took a toll, just like the job did. But this toll has been higher. See, what happens when I get sick? Well, my eating goes to hell. It started on Saturday with a trip to Five Guys for burgers. And then Sunday I ate a giant burrito. And then yesterday I finished that burrito and had pizza and a giant chocolate chip cookie for dinner. And I started thinking about going to get a dozen donuts for myself this morning. Feeling mighty binge-y at the moment. Classic Julie. Get sick? EAT ALL THE FOOD.

This is where I’ll transition to talking about my friend, Emily. You may know her. She’s kinda awesome. I woke up this morning and before I had even wiped the sleep from my eyes, I was reading her latest post. If you haven’t seen it, click here and read it now. And make sure to watch the embedded video, too. The rest of this post can wait.

Okay, didya read it? Cool! We can move forward!

I was so inspired by her post that as I was reading it I got up out of bed and started heading towards my laptop. I was so flooded with feelings that I was compelled to respond. And thus here I am. I know that in this blog I choose to celebrate my successes a lot. That’s part of why I’m successful, I think, is that I don’t let the small victories pass without bragging them up all over the place. It makes me feel good, helps me stay motivated, and keeps me on what is generally a very rocky path.

The part of Emily’s post that I really wanted to respond to was this:

“I’m still not in a place where I 100% believe that I will lose the weight and build a solid recovery from Binge Eating Disorder. Frankly, I don’t know if that confidence will ever come. I wish I could be one of those people who has a grand “AH HA!” moment, where the heavens open up and I’m suddenly struck with a never-before-felt sense of purpose and motivation.

I am just not one of those people.”

This has been me for so, so long. So many previous efforts, I felt this at my core. Sure, you get yourself whipped up into some willpower frenzy, feel like you can take on the world for a bit, then the reality of a slow process hits you in the face pretty quickly, and you lose that motivation. That’s being human. Why is it different this time?

When I started this process I was in a dark, dark place. I had been out of work, had fallen into another massive depression spell, and was working through it. My eating was off-the-charts bad. And I was feeling the physical effects of the weight on my body in ways I hadn’t previously. When taking my daily walk from the bed to the couch, I’d feel my heart pound and would actually feel winded at the end of it! I despised myself. I felt suicidal. I felt that I had screwed my life up so much it might just be better to end it.

I reached out for help. I always do, thank goodness. I sought counseling for my depression, and slowly, like it usually does, the depression started to lift. I started to care about myself, the teeniest, tiniest of bits. And when I crawl out of my depression funk, one of the first things I start thinking about it losing weight. It’s like a self-defeating cycle.

I knew I had food issues that I needed to work on. I didn’t know how to approach my desires to lose weight, so of course, TO THE INTERNET! I found blogs to follow, I looked up nutritional counseling, found a practice nearby that seemed like it was what I needed, and met a fabulously-positive counselor who made me feel supported and normal and human in a way I hadn’t felt in a long, long time. And then I did the thing that ended up changing everything for me: I called my insurance to find out how to extend my available time with her, and learned what services were available to me. This is how I found 20/20 Lifestyles, which, for me, was the structure I needed to really start on this journey for reals.

Here’s the thing: while there is a place of hope that needs to happen at some point on your weight loss journey (usually at the start), this hope needs to be supported sufficiently and strengthened by success.

That hope is not enough to carry us. We need supportive structures around us that keep that hope alive. Because wanting it isn’t enough. I’ve been that person who’s been wanting to lose weight, knows I NEED to lose weight for my health, but I didn’t feel that hope deep down for very long. Maybe for a week or two, but never long enough to sustain the necessary efforts. This has gone on since I was a teenager. And this is what got me up to being so overweight.

That “A Ha!” moment Emily mentioned doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It usually starts with a small spark. Maybe there’s a little fuel to keep it flaming for a second or two. But without a sustained supply of oxygen, it will not keep burning. We get those sparks dozens of times, maybe hundreds of times. But so rarely do we have that sustainable resource of support to keep us going.

Part of the 20/20 Lifestyles program were weekly support group meetings with other women on the program. That group started with about ten women, and ended with merely three of us. The fact is one solution isn’t the kindling for us all. We all have individual needs in that regard. What works for someone else isn’t gonna work for me, and vice versa. For some food tracking may be the thing that works for them. For others, they may need a hearty rewards system. Still others may need intense years of therapy to keep them going. And some, like me, may need ALL of those things and more!

The other part of Emily’s post I wanted to address was that overwhelming feeling of having so much weight to lose. When you’re looking at needing to lose over 100 lbs to get down to a reasonable weight, and losing 1 or 2 lbs a week is your average (or less), it can feel too monumental a task. The hope helps at this stage.

But as you start knocking pounds off, two things happen:

1) You start realizing you CAN do it. That spark starts to become your persona. You’re not just hopeful that you can do it, you ARE doing it; and,

2) The changes you’ve effected start to work in your favor. Your eating patterns are different, and habits are formed that make it considerably easier to resist temptation. Activity becomes part of your life and missing out on it becomes something you actually MISS when denied the opportunity. And as you get smaller/fitter/whatever there’s a strength that comes that makes you feel empowered to do more, to strive for more. Confidences are gained that you never thought possible. That doesn’t happen at the END of the rainbow, that can hit at any point along your journey! Thank goodness!

These two changes, these evolutions that occur are vital, as well. Because, life. Illness happens, injury happens, funky times happen. I’m going through it right now. Last night I was plotting the route to Top Pot Doughnuts and planning which dozen I would select. This morning I’m thinking about the leftover pizza in my fridge. I WILL ALWAYS HAVE THESE URGES, AND SOMETIMES I WILL GIVE IN TO THESE URGES AND BINGE.

But you know what? That doesn’t mean I’m going to fail. That’s not something I felt at the beginning, I can 100% tell you that. But I feel it at my core now. I am not sick with feeling of failure while planning on eating pizza. I know that I’m going through something (injury + TOM hormones = binge), but that I’ve gone through something before and come out of it. This is what self-compassion is for me, and it’s vital to this process of transformation.

At the end of this, all I can really advise is: find your kindling wherever you can, and fan those flames, friends! I know we can win at this!

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20/20 Lifestyles Wrap-Up (with Video)

I made it! I completed the two complete phases of the 20/20 Lifestyles Program, and I’m pretty proud to say that I KICKED. ITS. ASS!!!! Watch the video below for my recap, and/or continue reading further down for the details!

Today was my final program appointment with my physician, Dr. Doyle Perkins – though I will be meeting with him every 10 weeks hereafter to check-in and continue to measure my progress and assess any needs I have as pertains to my weight or fitness. Last week I went through my final round of tests on the program – including having my bloodwork run, strength and flexibility tests, and my DEXA body composition scan.

First up were my program before & after photos:
beforeafter_jun2014
Whoooooaaaaa… look at that side view! We are always are own harshest critics, and I sometimes feel like I’m just as big as ever, but there’s no denying that I’m considerably smaller than I was back in September. I’ve lost a large number of inches around my body – more around than I am tall, in fact. Look, I made a table!

Initial End P1 End P2 Total loss
Neck 16″ 13.75″ 13.25″ -2.75″
Chest 54.75″ 46.5″ 43.75″ -11″
Waist 51″ 39.5″ 36″ -15″
Hips 57.25″ 49″ 46″ -11.25″
Right Arm (Bicep) 19″ 15″ 14″ -5″
Right Leg (Thigh) 36″ 28″ 24″ -12″

If I’ve done the math correctly (chances are that I haven’t), that adds up to 57 inches total! And if you double my arm and thigh values for actuals, it’s like 74 inches. Over six feet of space gone from my body overall. NUTS!

Next up is a table of some of my other metrics:

Initial P1 End P2 End Change
Weight (lbs) 266 210 191 -75 lbs!
Body Fat % 61.3 50.0 43.2 -18.1%
Lean Body Mass (lbs) 103 105 109 +6 lbs!
Cholesterol 185 182 154 -31
Triglycerides 103 77 69 -34
LDL 119 124 100 -19
HDL 45 43 40 -5
Glucose 104 84 82 -22
BP 126/82 114/68 106/66 -20/-16

Everything’s going in the right direction there, except for my HDL (healthy cholesterol), which I need to try to get to 50 according to Dr. Perkins.

My favorite part is the lean muscle mass. According to the DEXA scan, I’ve gained something on the order of 6 lbs of muscle. I don’t have anything to compare this to, but when I started on the program they told me the strength training component of my workouts were designed to prevent me from LOSING muscle mass, which I’m told is common among women losing large amounts of weight. So the fact that I did more than maintain my muscle and that I, in fact, increased my muscle, is something to celebrate. Doc said my fat loss was something like 81 lbs instead of just 75, factoring in my lean gains. And both the assessor and my doctor mused that it was the largest body fat percentage loss/muscle gain they remembered seeing in a female on the program, so I’m pretty proud of that!

The muscle mass increase explains my strength test results. My bicep curl back in September showed me able to curl 35 lbs. Last week, I curled 54 lbs. My flexibility result was perhaps the most of a letdown. My “sit and reach” back in September was 9.6 inches, and last week it was a mere 7.7 inches. The assessor said it wasn’t uncommon, buuuut, I don’t believe her. I haven’t been doing as much stretching as I should in recent months. And MAYBE I was wearing Spanx to my final appointment. That might have had something to do with the negative result 😉 In any case, increased flexibility is always something to shoot for.

So yeah, I’m feeling pretty damned good about my overall program results. What’s more, I feel confident that I will be able to maintain my efforts and keep losing more as time goes on. I recommend the 20/20 Lifestyles program to those with the financial means to do so. It’s not an inexpensive program. And while my insurance covers half of it, it’s still a lot of money out of pocket (or out of our health savings account, which is a nice perk as well). I’ve gone through all sorts of different weight loss programs, but this was really the most comprehensive, and I think that approach is what’s really required for long-term lifestyle change. I feel deeply changed in ways that I never thought possible, and I’m excited about the next stage of my personal journey. Hope you’ll continue to follow along!

I Was Never Much of a Drinker…

Just Say No During Weight Loss

“Beer Sampler” by Quinn Dombrowski, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / added graphic and text

A fun fact about me: I’m not that into alcohol. I never acquired a taste for beer, much to my partner’s chagrin – he’s super into craft beer and even home brews! Nor wine, alas, so no wine tasting trips in our future. The hard stuff is like battery acid to me, but if you dress it up with a bunch of colored sugary water and a slice of fruit (certain cocktails for instance), I’ll occasionally be provoked to imbibe. A particular favorite was the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise‘s rendition of a Singapore Sling. Or the “Hot Mess” Martini made up at some hotel bar in Bellingham, WA (it proved worthy of its name). YUMMY! And I’m a cheap date ‘cuz, contrary to my size, I get TORE UP pretty easily (and amusingly).

So when I signed up for the 20/20 Lifestyles weight loss program and heard that one of the rules was NO ALCOHOL for the entire length of the program, it didn’t really phase me. No drinking that stuff I hardly like? NO PROBLEM! But when I was explaining the assortment of rules to my partner, he scoffed upon hearing the no alcohol bit. He postulated that even if he was morbidly obese he wouldn’t be able to partake in the program due to his undying love of the result of the process of saccharification of starch and fermentation of the resulting sugar (thanks, Wikipedia).

Many would see this admonishment of alcohol as a simple issue of calories in/calories out. Most of us are aware that alcoholic beverages have a lot of empty calories (and if you’re not, go have a look at this handy alcohol calorie calculator), and empty calories !=good calories, so we should simply cut them out like we would soda pop. But what I learned at the first 20/20 Lifestyles seminar (a roughly 2.5-hr lecture given by the director of the program) about why alcohol consumption during weight loss is detrimental to the process was fascinating and I had never heard about it before. And I’ve been thinking: well if I hadn’t heard about it, maybe some of my new online friends (you lushes!) could benefit from this information as well. Hence, this post!

I’m going to link to some sources below, but the main thrust is this:

When you drink alcohol, your body goes on high alert because it senses a toxic substance and focuses on getting rid of it, pronto. It shuts down its normal fat burning metabolic processes and switches to trying to metabolize the alcohol instead.

So if you spend a few hours at the gym and then unwind with a cold brew afterwards with some friends, maybe skipping the chili fries and having a salad instead, you’re actually halting the process that would lead to the weight loss you were going for in the first place with all that exercise effort and healthy eating choices!!! To add further insult, it takes the results of that metabolic process and turns the byproduct into fatty acids. Fun! And it takes more time than you would think for that desired fat burning process to fire back up again. I can’t find a solid online reference as of posting time, but if I remember correctly (it’s also mentioned here) it’s something on the order of DAYS for the deleterious effects on your metabolism processes to subside.

As a side note, for those who take a balanced approach to their food (vs. those who use restriction dieting), many enjoy knowing they’re feeding their bodies the proper nutrient-rich foods in order to have their body systems functioning as well as they can. But when you throw alcohol into the equation (aka against your intestinal walls), it can prevent the body from absorbing the very nutrients you’re putting so much thought into getting. This is more an issue for people who drink alcohol excessively, but still something to point out if you’re carefully monitoring the amount of, say, Vitamin A you’re getting.

Here are some links that illustrate and explain (in a vast array from easy-to-read to ultra-scientific-speak) the science behind the metabolism of alcohol and the deleterious effects on weight loss.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_metabolism

http://www.evolvingwellness.com/essay/how-does-our-body-metabolize-alcohol-and-what-are-the-effects

http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/do-drinking-and-weight-loss-mix

http://www.builtlean.com/2012/11/26/alcohol-weight-loss/

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-your-body-processes-alcohol.html

So, have fun partying this weekend. Lol! Just kidding!

In all seriousness: to me, the negative effects on the metabolism make it super-easy to abstain, and I likely won’t treat myself to a sugary alcoholic drink while I’m actively working to lose weight. But how about you?

Now that you know the effect, do you think your alcohol consumption will change in light of your weight loss goals? And I’m also curious: Was this something that you had heard of before, or is it as fascinatingly-new to you as it was to me?

 

End of Phase 1 Update Extravaganza

Blargh! Let me start this update post by mentioning that I’m SICK – yet again! I woke up on Wednesday morning with a crazy bad raw throat, and have been working ever since to try to feel better. I’m happy to report that the throat rawness is gone, but it’s been supplanted by a cough and generic cold symptoms. I’m an icky mess, so I’m drinking lots of water, trying to keep my nutrition in the right place, and laying off the workouts for now. Which sucks ‘cuz the weather’s actually nice now. Again: blargh! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

This marks my first week on Phase 2 of the 20/20 Lifestyles program, and within this last week I had all my end of Phase 1 testing and other fun stuff: blood work, measurements, body composition testing (DEXA), updated progress photos, and a meeting with my program doctor. I couldn’t isolate one that was more important to me than any other – I was looking forward to it all!

Let’s start some tables, shall we?

Initial 5-wk 10-wk 15-wk 20-wk 24-wk Total
Weight (lbs) 266 255.2 237 227.6 218.6 210 -56 lbs
Blood Pressure 126/82 114/68 112/64 118/74 114/68 -12/-14
Neck 16″ 14.5″ 14.25″ 14″ 14″ 13.75″ -2.25″
Chest 54.75″ 51.5″ 50″ 48.75″ 47.75″ 46.5″ -8.25″
Waist 51″ 44.25″ 43″ 41″ 40″ 39.5″ -11.5″
Hips 57.25″ 54.5″ 52.5″ 51.75″ 50″ 49″ -8.25″
Right Arm (Bicep) 19″ 17″ 16.5″ 16.5″ 15.5″ 15″ -4″
Right Leg (Thigh) 36″ 30″ 29.25″ 29.5″ 29″ 28″ -8″

 

Those are the measurements. That’s a total of 42.25 inches – gone! Amazing. Let’s have another table, this time focused on my DEXA body composition scan results:

Phase 1 Start End Total Change
BMI 48.6 38.4 -10.2 pts
Fat % 61.3 50.0 -11.3 %
Fat Lbs 156.8 103.8 -53 lbs
Lean Muscle Lbs 98.9 103.9 +5 lbs!

 

As you can see at still 50% fat I have a long way to go. And I’m thrilled to see that I GAINED five pounds of lean muscle mass. Apparently it doesn’t happen often on this program during Phase 1, and any strength training is done mainly to prevent lean muscle loss as well as fat loss. So color me stoked about that. And let me just say, people: do not trust your home scales’ body fat measurements! They are wildly inaccurate. For example, my home scale’s fat percentage shows me down in the 30’s (between 34 and 37).

Lastly, let’s look at my blood work results:

Phase 1 Start End Total Change
Cholesterol 185 182 -3
HDL 45 43 -2
LDL 119 124 +5
Triglycerides 103 77 -26
Fasting Glucose 104 84 -20

 

My cholesterol started mostly in the normal ranges, however it’s perplexing that my healthy (HDL) cholesterol went down while my bad (LDL) cholesterol went up. Though I am eating more eggs and animal protein sources now than I was before I started. My doctor wasn’t concerned and said just to keep plugging away at it, and that he’d like to see me above 50 for my HDL. My triglycerides came down a bunch though, which is good. And he did heap a big bunch of praise on the fact that I dropped my fasting glucose down to below 100. No more pre-diabetes for me!

And now for everyone’s favorite part: PROGRESS PHOTOS!

Phase 1 Progress Photo

Now we’re seeing some changes, aren’t we? We’re each our own worst critics, and I definitely fall prey to that mentality, but look at that side view! I can’t argue with that sort of visible success. I’m getting smaller. My measurements show it, my photos show it, and my clothing sizes reflect it. Now if my mind would get in on the fun as well we’ll be golden!

My Phase 2 goal is to get to ONEDERLAND, or under 200 pounds, for those of you out of the know about such vernacular. Pretty sure I have that dialed. I’m in my first of twelve weeks total on Phase 2, and while I’m starting it off on not the best footing (by being sick), I have high hopes. My trainer would like to see me down into the 180’s, but I tell her she’s crazy. But is she? We’ll see!

Video Update: Illness and Urge Surfing

This week I put the “urge” back in “burger” and talk about how being sick makes me WANT TO EAT EVERYTHING. In other news, I’m down to 217.2 lbs!

PS – Wanna know more about Urge Surfing? Read a little more about it here, or even listen to the practice instruction here.

Sick Week Update

This morning, after spending most of the night coughing and tossing and turning and being fairly miserable I decided to bite the bullet and email my 20/20 Lifestyles team to go on official medical hold. I missed my appointments last Monday and Tuesday but felt well-enough to hit my training appointment on Wednesday. But as of Thursday morning I was back to feeling real bad so called in sick for my Friday appointment. I had hoped that with the resting and self-care I’d be back to working condition by tomorrow, but my cough has not yet matured and I’m still feeling really miserable and run-down.

I’ve been spending my days on the couch, or in bed. Getting up enough to refill my water glass and make myself something to eat, but that’s about it. The good news? I’m now completely caught up on “House of Cards”, so no spoilers there. In fact I’m nearly out of things to watch on Netflix, so I’m soliciting suggestions.

I’ve tried really hard to maintain my nutrition during this down time. It’s rough. I can’t taste or smell much of anything, so nothing is really appetizing. And I’ve lacked the energy to spend much time in the kitchen as it is. Most of my meals had typically included dairy, and it’s been hard to pare that down. But I’m happy to report I’ve been hitting my minimums. Today was the most difficult day to stay on target, as my sleep was so awful last night, plus my boyfriend is also very sick. We’re quite the pair.

I weighed myself on Tuesday morning and was happy to see I was still moving down. The scale read 220.4, and my home scale is tested to be usually within 0.2 lbs of the scale at my official weigh-in. I broke out the scale this morning because I’ve been eager to break the 220 weight barrier, and I was stoked to see 218. Under 220! I wish it were under better circumstances, but I’ll take any win I can get right now.

I’m feeling a bit guilty about missing my gym appointments. On Wednesday, my trainer dropped a hint that she got into trouble for offering to reschedule the appointment I missed on Monday, and the last thing I want is to get anyone into trouble. She also mentioned that they don’t get paid for the hour when a client misses an appointment. There was a bit of a weird vibe, so on top of being sick I’ve also been feeling guilty. I always feel guilty when I’m sick, though. I’m just disappointed that hasn’t changed.

So that’s it for now. Hopefully by the time I check back in I’ll feel a lot better.

Video Quickie: I’m a Sickie

Blargh. I fancied myself a smalltime superhero for avoiding the various winter coughs, colds, and flus that’ve been plaguing people all season. But alas, it seems some germs have broken through and landed on my vocal cords. If you’re at all interested in a newer green smoothie recipe (or hearing my delightfully seductive sickly-voice), go ahead and click “play” below! Now, I’m off to play some Diablo III.