In February of this year, I hit my rock bottom.
My ever-intuitive husband — who, for all his neanderthal tendencies, I’m convinced was a woman in former life — could tell something was up with me. But it was dinnertime and with kids milling about the kitchen all I said, was, “I don’t really want to talk about it right now. I’ll tell you later.” He persisted, despite my death-stare, so I texted him from the living room.
This was my ‘rock bottom’. In case you are a numbers person: 192.5. A number I hadn’t seen since I was seven months pregnant with my twins. TWINS, you guys. A number I never thought I’d see again. A number I was not expecting since I had begun working out again in the weeks prior and therefore one that had the effect of sending me into a tailspin.
Have you ever had a tailspin moment? I was alone at the time so I could be angry without restraint. There was disbelief. There were tears. Pounding fists on the counter. How did this happen? Whose body is this? And then, there was calm. By the time of my husband’s prodding, I had already made a commitment to myself to make a change, but I was still reeling and upset from that number and obviously wearing my emotions on my sleeve.
Nevertheless, after that night, there was no fuss. There were no proclamations of a great weight loss journey. There was merely resolve, as though someone had flipped a switch and I could see clearly the path laid out before me. You see, I’m not not into the whole ‘self-deprecation’ scene. In fact, it annoys the shit out of me when women get together and the conversation, once you’ve gotten past kids and husbands, inevitably turns to diet and exercise and OMG I’m so fat. Come on. Like we don’t have anything more interesting to talk about? I’ve been know to shut down that ridiculousness.
Just Do It
No, I prefer to suffer in silence. Well, ‘suffer’ may be a bit harsh. What I mean is, I prefer to suck it up. Your life is what you make of it. Your choices and their outcome are your responsibility and burden to bear. The good, the bad and the ugly. So why complain? So someone can stroke your ego? Don’t ask me if I think you’ve put on weight, unless you are prepared for an honest answer. It’s that number. Everybody has one, real or imagined. The trick is knowing how to deal with that number. Regardless, I would never put a friend of mine in that situation. I know I’ve faced a rough year; I know I’ve got to get back in the saddle and I know that any weight challenges I now face are as a direct result of the choices I’ve made. Was it a slap in the face? Hell, yea. But now it’s my responsibility to make the change.
You should know that this has been a deeply personal struggle one I debated sharing (because do we really need another weight-related story?) Anyway, in the year approaching 40 I took on physical challenges beyond anything I could have imagined: 5K runs, a Warrior Dash and a Tough Mudder. My desire to take on new challenges only grew as I completed my first and second 10Ks, then a Spartan Sprint in the Spring of 2014. And while not exactly at my peak level of fitness, I was out there! I was doing it! Yet all it took was a freak accident in July to set me back six months. Not only set me back, but leave me worse off than before. I had broken my elbow. And I mean: really broken it. I could never have anticipated how one elbow could affect my overall physical self.
If you’ve ever faced a life-altering challenge, you know the biggest hurdle is making the commitment to yourself to change and also accepting that this might be a solo mission. To be fair, I was consulting a naturopathic doctor at the time because of my as-yet-unhealed elbow and when I asked for advice on how to beat my one-tub-a-night Haagen Dazs addiction, she gave me additional support and tips. There are five main components to my lifestyle shift and I’m sharing them here. None are mind blowing and, with the exception of #2, they don’t cost anything. In fact, you’ve probably seen these tools or some variation thereof before. Guess what? They work.
My 5 #Fit40s Tools
The first step was finding a new food journal to hold me accountable for my daily intake. I had done this about six years ago with a different app and then gradually gave up but there is value in seeing what you are actually putting into your body as well as the quality and nutritional value of the food you are eating.
My naturopath offered these simple tips: have protein with every meal/snack: this could be a handful of almonds, a hard-boiled egg or a couple of slices of ham; eat your grains in the morning (avoiding breads and starchy carbs at lunch and dinner, with some exceptions); eat fruit in the early part of the day and load up on veggies. She may have said something about avoiding coffee but I tuned that part out. I also cut my alcohol consumption way back (cutting it out completely in the first weeks).
I am not a calorie counter and I don’t diet. I like food too much. However, I’m horrible when it comes to portion control so this app really offered some perspective into what reasonable quantities are in relation to my weight loss goals. It easily scans packaged items and has thousands of foods logged into its database. You can add your own meals and recipes and it breaks down the nutritional content for you. Also, it pairs with my Polar fitness tracker and Runkeeper apps (though I do not link both simultaneously as it results in double-counting calories burned so I just link my Polar to it).
2. Polar Loop Fitness/Activity Tracker & App (or Fitbit, etc.)
I’ve had my Polar Loop activity tracker for over a year now and love it. Many people I know use the Fitbit or another variation thereof. Whichever model you choose, should you choose one at all, these activity/sleep monitors have a positive effect, in my opinion, if you can get past the idea of constant being ‘wired in’. I am a very results-oriented person. I like to see the effects of my workout NOW. I like seeing my daily steps (goal of 10,000+), the percentage of my daily goal reached, calories burned and heart rate (when connected to HR monitor).
The app also monitors my quantity and quality of sleep, how much of my awake time is being spent active and inactive and breaks down my workouts when paired with the HR monitor. The calorie and steps data are linked to the MyFitnessPal app which totally rocks because after a good workout I know that I can replenish (i.e. eat more!)
3. Runkeeper App & Get Outdoors + 30-Day Challenges + Wii Just Dance
So you may have heard some funny little adage that “to lose weight you must burn more calories than you consume.” Huh. You mean like, this has been scientifically proven yet people are still searching for a magic little pill or a quick fix?? Don’t you think that if there were a magic little pill we would all be taking it for God’s sake?
Basically, I made a commitment to MOVE MY ASS. In the cold months of February/March and well into April, I was still housebound. I wasn’t interested in returning to the gym so I put up 30-day challenges on the wall in my basement around my treadmill. I would create my own weight-training and cardio routines according to my mood and worked out about 3x/week in addition to following a 30-day challenge on one of my Facebook groups. I’m convinced this is what helped me prepare for my Toronto Yonge Street 10K in April.
On days where a workout evaded me and my daily steps were hovering around 5600 I put on Wii Just Dance and had a one-hour dance party with my kids. That shit kicked my ass! (And also threw out my back a week before my 10K, so dance carefully, my 40+ peeps!) These days, I hit the trails, feeling fortunate every day that our location and my schedule are flexible enough to afford me this little luxury. Every single day I am determined to get out for a walk/run or bike ride anywhere from 8K-15K (on the weekends this includes family bike rides). I discovered audio books are fantastic for these solo treks and, yes, I douse myself in sunscreen, wear sunglasses and a hat or helmet. Safety first!
Bonus: I am a much happier person and mama when I’ve gotten a good dose of activity. I get pretty cranky if I miss a day. Also, as I mentioned above, Runkeeper syncs with MyFitness Pal but I do not run it simultaneously to the Polar app to avoid duplication of the same activity and calorie adjustment.
4. Hot Lemon Water
One of my naturopath’s suggestions to me dating back to last fall has become a daily ritual, much like brushing my teeth: hot lemon water first thing every morning. Apparently now it’s all the rage. I’m not sure that this has had weight loss benefits per se, but the idea of toxins being flushed out of my liver every morning is pretty cool. Plus it’s soothing.
Also, let’s remember water, in general, is a staple. I read recently that you should be drinking, in ounces, the equivalent of half your body weight in pounds. I drink a 21 oz bottle when I head out on the trails and down another by lunch time and usually another in the afternoon. This, combined with my big glass of lemon water, is a decent drinking effort, but could probably use some improvement. My skin thanks me for it, though.
Ah, sleep. Or lack thereof. The bane of my existence and the one thing that eludes me the most. You guys, I even went to a Sleep Disorder Clinic back in January because I do not sleep well (late nights notwithstanding.) Sleep is so important to promote and maintain weight loss, and yet…
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a night owl. I own my evenings and relish in the quiet, dark solitude as I write or peruse the internet or watch Netflix. This is one of the hardest habits I’ve had to break and I’m still a work-in-progress. For a small stretch I was actually going to bed between 10-11pm and then I faltered. It is easily past midnight and beyond by the time I crash.
The results of my sleep study concluded I’m a pretty normal sleeper, if you exclude my post-pregnancy bladder issues. The advice imparted unto me: Your husband snores? Wear earplugs. The light bothers you? Wear an eye mask. Stellar advice. I was already doing this stuff but I guess it took a night of being hooked up to 300 wires to confirm it. Anyway, I’m working on it.
Slow and Steady
So this past week I hit a new number: 177.5. A solid effort but still a while to go. I went from ‘no longer comfortable in my own skin’ to ‘is my butt higher?’. While there are those who (quite understandably) do not dwell on the number of a scale but rather on the fit of their clothes or comfort in their own skin, for me, it is validation that my commitment to change has taken hold. It’s working. As someone so wired-in with all the apps and gadgets, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
To be clear, and before anyone gets on their soapbox, I do not measure my worth by a number (otherwise I never would have let it get so high). That being said, this method of tracking my progress works for me and so far it’s been at a slow and steady and sustainable pace. I began tracking my weight at 190 lbs on March 1st. I started off strong in March, then tapered off in April before coming out swinging in May. I credit my daily dose of outdoors for keeping me on track. You might have a different approach or none at all. And that’s great. Whatever works for you. This. This is what is working for me.
At the end of the day, when your health affects your happiness and your relationships it’s time to make some changes, and so that’s what I did. This public-personal weight loss journey is more of a lesson in accountability for me, a benchmark from which to launch forward and keep going. However, I have also seen how my commitment to change has had a positive effect on people around me and that, my friends, is worth its weight in gold.