Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hooray for moms who support our good decisions!

Me and my mom
Mother's Day is just around the corner, so in celebration of moms everywhere I thought I'd post this story of how my mom has been one of my greatest supporters during my weight-loss journey (and always!), and how decisions I have made as a result of her support have led to my being able to take off, and keep off, the weight.

Early on in my weight-loss journey, when I still weighed more than 400 pounds, my mom offered to treat me to a round-trip to Paris once I reached my initial goal of losing more than 100 pounds. It was an incentive, and one that I asked for by name. I did this because I knew that if one person still believed in me in this world, it was my mom. And it's nice to know someone believes in you enough to help fund your dreams.

At my largest size, my freedom to fly comfortably, if at all, was impinged due to my severe obesity. The thought of flying to Paris, and imagining being there, sitting on a park bench in Luxembourg Gardens as the city whirled around me, provided me with enough visual candy to chew to allow me to evade my craving for other sweets (as well as overly saturated fats and other sabotaging foods).

My mom's amazing incentive for completing my daunting new goal tied in nicely to a yet-unfulfilled lifelong dream. Even though I ended up not cashing in on her offer, the offer itself was significant and enough to get me motivated when I needed it most. And as it would turn out, my mom would come to support me throughout my journey in ways that would turn out to be much more significant than an amazing carrot on the end of a stick.

When I started this journey, I was unemployed and scared to go out on a job search for fear of size discrimination, which I had begun experiencing in subtle and direct ways. I had been a journalist and an ESL teacher, and prejudice against me for my size became apparent, but bearable, once I hit 330 pounds. After being laid off at a time when I had reached my top weight, though, left my confidence in shambles. I ballooned up even more, and increasingly became reclusive, afraid to put myself out there in any social situation that might leave me open to being excluded.

In response to my predicament, my mother offered to help me out with clothing to make sure that every step of the way I could wear things that fit perfectly and made me feel proud of my accomplishments. With her help, I was able to buy clothes to fit that I would only wear for a month or so before turning around the next month and needing all new stuff.

One of the first things she bought me was clothes for new job. Even though I didn’t feel confident enough to bust down any doors at publishing companies or apply for new teaching gigs, I did get up the courage to apply for a job as a waiter at a local ale house. I told the manager how I had already started losing weight, and I assured him that I would for sure be able to keep up with the young, fit crew I saw swirling around me as he interviewed me at a booth I barely squeezed into just as the lunch rush was dying down.

The manager there took a chance on me, although he did express concern during the interview that I might not be capable of actually performing the job due to my excessive weight and size. And so, with my new black pants and shirt, and a pair of skid-free tennis shoes, I was newly employed and, with a sweat rag of courage in my back pocket, was ready to attack obesity once and for all.

It helped me more than you could imagine having this support. I would donate the old stuff to charities, and with mom’s help, replace it with other stuff – primarily from thrift stores and discount stores like Ross, Marshalls and TJ Maxx.

I think without her help, and in this specific way, I might not have been able to build my confidence and keep it strong enough throughout the laborious and incredibly trying middle stages of being committed to a plan for significant weight loss.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone will have the same needs during their weight-loss journey as I did. The first incentive of a trip awoke my mind up to old dreams. The second gave me wings to fly. And this worked for me because I absolutely love shopping, and I absolutely care about being comfortable in my clothes while presenting myself to the world. Others may have other needs that would support them, and each person knows innately what that is.

The bottom line is that it's important to be able to be totally real with yourself and others when you're going through the process, and make sure you are doing it FOR YOURSELF and on YOUR OWN TERMS. That's key.

It really is a journey. I took off nearly 165 in about 18 months, and then gained 20 back - after deciding I needed to slow things down for a while - to level off at around 275. I then worked keep it off, and I remained stable for a year before now, as I'm trying to lose more.

Back at it now for about two months, I've lost those 20 pounds I had gained a year ago and am working on losing another 40. I'm patient and focused on eating right and exercising. I'm happy with my weight and level of physical fitness, but my goal is to overcome "obesity" and that's what I'm going to do!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hitting the gym again, and it feels so good!

My body feels so good after a rigorous workout. and the good feeling lasts for days. I've been three times since joining last week, and I can already feel that I'm building muscle, which in turn is burning fat.

Before, when I went to the gym, I spent no more than an hour doing just one specific routine, then I went home, regardless of how much energy I might have had remaining. I didn't want to overdo it, and I wasn't sure what I was capable of. I would either do my medicine ball routine, shoulders with back and biceps, chest with triceps, or legs. Now that I'm back at it, I'm learning a little from a friend of the benefits of cross-training.

He has been having great results by doing a variety of exercises, working out his entire body every time he hits the gym - about three days per week. So taking a cue from him, I've developed a similar attitude.

On Friday, I went to the gym with Khizer and we did one set of about seven exercises using the medicine ball. This was mostly focused on core, but it's really a total body workout. Then, he went to do legs and I did shoulders and back. I also did some focused work on abs with about 200 reps of Russian Twists using the cable pulley machine. We stayed about an hour and a half, a full 30 minutes longer than I ever used to work out.

Then, on Saturday I returned to the gym myself and had a great workout in the same vein, but this time I did more exercises and spent about two hours there. I started off by doing the same medicine ball routine, but I added a second set. Then I did the cable pulley Russian Twist abs workout, doing about 200 reps - 100 on each side (focusing on both lower and upper abs). After this I did my regular chest and triceps routine, which includes three sets of 12 reps each of five different exercises (using machines, free weights and pulleys). Plus, I added weight-assisted dips, which I now plan on making a regular part of this routine.

I'm heading back to the gym today after work, and I plan on doing another 2-hour workout. In fact, my new goal for the gym is a two 1-hour workouts and two 2-hour workouts per week. I will also plan on hiking for between 6 and 10 hours per week (two 2-hour hikes during the week and one on 4- to 8-hour hike on the weekend).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My fit life journey is back on track; relationship's in tact

On May 7 of last year, in a post titled "Weight restrictions begone! Time to have fun!, I reported that I weighed in at 255 pounds that morning. That low-weight point was to be the high point of my fit life journey to date, which started at more than 420 pounds. Within a few weeks of that happy day in May, I began planning a move to Boston, which caused my stress levels to rise, along with my weight.

I wasn't too upset about gaining a few pounds at that point. My plan was to allow my body to adjust to the rapid weight loss I had experienced. At that point, I had lost 165 pounds in about a year and four months.

Eventually I settled in somewhere in the mid-270s. I was hiking a lot in Boston - something like 20 miles per week - but I had to quit my gym membership for financial reasons. Then, after just a couple of months in Boston we decided we were going to be moving to Albuquerque. So, as we planned another move and thus extended our state of flux, the stress was compounded knowing it would be at least another few months before stability in my life was returned.

By the time we moved to Albuquerque in January, stress was mounting exponentially. Throughout the fall I dealt with my stress in two ways: 1) by hiking 20-miles per week, and 2) by indulging in Ben and Jerry's ice cream and sweets any time I felt like it. The exercise counteracted much of the damage that otherwise could have been done by the occasional binging, but by the end of January I was pushing 280, and I wasn't very happy about it.

At that time, my stress hit a high point. The week before I got an offer to start my new job, my partner decided he needed to strike out on his own. As a result we experienced a break in our relationship, which at that point was the one remaining bit of stability I was counting on. Not being one to sulk for too long, I decided to react to this time of transition by focusing once again on my weight goals. I signed up for a couple of 5K runs, continued to hike every chance I got, and once again cut out the indulgances of ice cream, cookies and the like.

I have been experiencing a steady weight loss since February, and as of today, I am weighing in at 259 pounds. Needless to say, I'm elated. Just four pounds to go until I'll feel I'm 100 percent back on track. And I'm just 32 pounds away from my goal of overcoming obesity once and for all!

Yesterday, I finally joined a gym, something that I've been wanting to do but haven't been able to afford. I haven't enjoyed my regular weight-lifting workouts for the past six months. But even as I hit the gym with a renewed vengance, I still plan to continue my hiking regimine. I plan to do resistance training five days per week and hike at least three. I will probably be putting on a lot of muscle, which I know will slow my weight loss. But that's fine by me. I'm working on building strength so I can do all the things I want to do in life without restriction.

In a bit of good news, too, I'm happy to report that my relationship with my former partner is transitioning nicely into a strong and supportive friendship. I have always felt that it is important to have continuity with those I care about than it is to have things turn out exactly the way I want them to. As we transition from one type of relationship to another, I know it is for the best.

I recognize that people need room to grow. He needs room, and so do I. But also, we have invested a lot into knowing each other, and we still care deeply about one another, so it is good to know that even if we choose not to continue with things the way they were, as friends I know he will still be there in my corner when I need him and I, of course, will still be there for him whenever he needs me. And that makes me feel very, very happy.