1200 calories a day is a snack.

I am no stranger to weight loss from a calorie deficit. I am also no stranger to gaining it back.

I remember the moment that I decided to lose weight. I saw a photo of myself that my (now ex) husband had taken, where I was sitting at the table with the kids at a restaurant eating. I couldn’t believe my huge stomach roll that stood out for everyone to see like some alien. My self esteem plummeted and I knew that I had to do something.


Note: This picture appears to have fallen off the face of the Earth… I don’t know how that happened!  wink


 

I started reading a lot about the dangers of processed foods and how to cook with whole foods. I used a calorie counter to track everything that I ate, and I worked out regularly in my living room to HIIT video’s. By the time that I started my divorce in 2014, my weight was down 35lbs. I was pretty proud of my appearance, fitness and progress.

It’s hard to explain what happened after that. Stress happened? I was a newly single parent and I was flat broke. I struggled to afford every little thing and sometimes wondered if I would make it. My ex-husband decided to move across the country to be with a woman that he met online and my kiddo started having depression. I bounced to a few different businesses but never felt truly happy. I struggled to keep up with my exercise regimen or any self-care, and I started to eat more for comfort.

On the flip side, I can say that during this time I also experienced some of the happiest memories that I had in years. I got a boyfriend and we were in the exciting honeymoon phase of our relationship. However, I also worried that having expectations would lead to disappointments, and the happiness I felt would fall apart. I didn’t feel deserving of that.

So, I gained back 20lbs. 

I have tried for the last year to lose that weight again but always fell off the calorie counting or fitness wagon. I have kept off 5lbs since my initial sobriety but it is such a grueling, frustrating, snails-pace that I don’t even feel like it’s worth counting.


1200 calories a day sucks.


 

Eating less food helps you lose weight- Shocking, I know!  I have had success with calorie counting and so have many other people. So, I am not going to sit here and tell you that the amount of food you eat doesn’t matter. It does. However, the real controversial question that more people are asking is: Are calories the only thing that matters?

If you go to any message board for weight loss right now, you will find a ton of people that are all saying the same thing:


  1. I feel hungry eating my calorie deficit
  2. I am not losing weight or hit a plateau
  3. I feel tired, irritable or have low energy and not motivated to work out

 

These people are all told the same thing over and over.

  • If you’re hungry, drink water. You could also eat more fiber. It’s okay and doesn’t hurt you to be hungry so stop whining and get used to it.
  • If you aren’t losing weight, eat EVEN LESS. Or you can exercise a bunch more and eat the same you’re eating now. You decide.
  • If you’re tired or have low energy it’s either your fault for being lazy or a nutritional deficiency, but nobody can agree on what foods encompass a healthy diet.

 

If you say that calorie counting isn’t working in any way, you are typically told that you miscalculated or that it’s your fault for not having the willpower to make it work.

I don’t know why so many people are so quick to discredit how food quality plays an important factor in weight loss, especially given the many studies that say just that. I guess the problem is that we can never agree which foods we should be eating, and so the whole idea is thrown out the window. The fact is, we know that foods affect our bodies in different ways and go through different metabolic pathways. Not only that, but the foods we eat can directly affect the hormones that regulate when and how much we eat.

Before any know-it-alls wonderful people jump up to say, “THERMODYNAMICS!”, let it be known that I KNOW. This is an unbreakable law of physics and isn’t even debatable. My point is, saying that weight gain is caused by excess calories might be true, but it’s meaningless. It’s the same as saying that highway traffic is at a standstill because more people are staying than they are going. It really doesn’t tell you a single thing about what caused it. Saying that it’s “laziness” or “lack of willpower” that is causing the increased calorie intake totally disregards the complex physiological processes that control our behavior and how the foods we eat can directly affect these processes.

This is something that I have been reflecting on a lot today since I have had such a hard time adhering to any deficit. There are a lot of anecdotal experiences out there from people that gave more attention to macro’s or food quality than calories, but of course this is always quickly dismissed. It’s been harder to take it with a grain of salt when the other side is a community of people that are constantly hungry and yo-yo dieting.

For now, I don’t know if I am going to land on any specific diet, but I am definitely focusing less on calorie counting and more on improving my fitness.

The scale is the ultimate betrayer.

I have been trying to lose weight for a year. However, overeating from stress and drinking made it impossible. Since I quit drinking and started running, I have lost 4lbs. I finally feel like I have a shot at this! That said, it has been such a slow process and I am completely impatient.

When you’re used to overeating, trying to eat at a calorie deficit every day seems like starvation. A typical day goes like this:

Breakfast: 400 calories

Lunch: 400 calories

Dinner: 198892983829 Calories

The fat kid in me tells me to eat two hot pockets after dinner. Or chips. Or 3 cereal bars. Or something. Except, I don’t have any of those things! Only Hobbits have two dinners so I drink water until it’s time for bed.

I jump out of bed in the morning and onto the scale. I think, surely, I have done it! Now I will have lost weight! and to my dismay, I am actually a pound heavier than my last recorded loss.

Sometimes I feel like the scale is against me…

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I know, I know. It’s just water weight. The scale is only one way to measure things. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that. I tell myself these things, but deep down I am still impatient. I want to see some kind of proof that my hard work is paying off. I can’t help but stare at my stomach in the mirror after every run and think, am I skinny yet?

In the past, I obsessed over calorie counting only to gain the weight right back, so this time I am trying instead to make healthier choices and the weight loss is much slower. I know if I obsessed over the numbers I might lose more quickly, but I am stubborn. The fat kid inside me doesn’t think she eats enough. No matter what’s on the menu, it’s only filling if it’s paired with 1/2 a large pizza or something that comes in a trough. Seriously, I can put it back. She stares angrily at the scale and says, “I didn’t eat cake for you, and you betrayed me“.

I wish it were as easy to lose weight as it is to gain weight.

Making strides.

Twenty-five days ago I quit drinking, and most people told me to start AA meetings or sign up for therapy. I started running instead.

I am not an athletic person whatsoever. I don’t work out and I’ve never trained for anything. Even as a child, I never participated in sports. I couldn’t even tell you how most of them are played. The 3-block walk to the grocery store to pick up potato chips for my Netflix marathon is usually plenty of activity in my book. That said, starting this running regimen has been kind of a big deal for me.

I suppose before I started the C25K program I had a romantic idea in my mind of what I thought running was like. The expectation was that I would leisurely jog down tranquil beaches in cute exercise clothing while sporting killer abs and hardly breaking a sweat, just like the girls in pictures. The reality is that I would drag my 2000lb, heavier-than-stone, aching body through the grass for fear of breaking my shins on the concrete, in the grubbiest clothing that I own because they will be so nasty that I will want to burn them in the fires of Sauron when I’m finished, all while praying nobody noticed my fat jiggling to the tune of “Get your freak on” on my Ipod.


Running is hard.


I know, I know. You’re probably thinking: You fool! You should go to AA. That seems to be the common thought among society. I did try a couple meetings, but sitting in a moldy church basement with a bunch of strangers and listening to someone’s struggle that was brought on from their dead cat simply isn’t therapeutic for me. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why a lot of people like the program. There is that sense of community when everyone greets you, listens to your woes and shakes your hand at the end. You even get coins, and who doesn’t like prizes?!  Well, this loner could do without.

The road is a fairly good listener and I get to tell my tale to the most important audience: myself. On my first run, I noticed right away the amount of positive self-talk involved to get through a session. It sounds really cheesy, but telling myself, “Don’t stop- you can do this!” has done wonders not only for my running but my self confidence.

You can get through this.

This pain is temporary.

You are strong.

These are all things that I think on my runs and I’m now starting to apply those same thoughts when I have other challenges in my life. As a drinker, I was only familiar with negative self talk and sabotaging myself into not doing anything that could result in failure. The mind is a very powerful thing. If you can train your mind to keep going even when your body wants to quit, you can achieve some incredible things.

I’m not sure how long I will have to train before I can consider myself a “real” runner. Right now, I am on week 4 of the C25K program and I find it quite challenging. Sometimes in the middle of a jog interval I have asked myself, “Is this really jogging or am I just hop-walking?” but finishing is all that matters so I keep going. I never regret a run. Even if my energy sucked and I come home feeling like I totally sucked, at least I tried.

The saying goes that you have to get through hell to reach heaven. Like all things worth pursuing, you are going to get knocked down, stepped on, and rejected along the way.  Maybe this is part of the journey to get to my goals. Sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination, anyway.

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Obligatory photo of my running shoes and heart rate monitor.