Tuesday, July 12, 2016
I just lost Fifty Pounds! (For the Seventh Time . . .)
There are times in your life when you really have to be grateful for thrift stores – like when you have to replace an entire wardrobe. When you gain weight, you grudgingly buy the larger sizes, worrying that having them will give you permission to put on more weight. And when you've lost weight several times, you wonder if you should keep your larger sizes in storage, in case you need them again.
But it's always fun to buy the skinny clothes. I know this, because I've done it seven times.
On previous occasions, everything from dysmorphia to vanity spurred me to lose weight. But my reasons were a lot more straight-forward this time. This time it was pain. My knees and hips ached so much, I couldn't sleep through the night. I took lots of pain killers, hoping the discomfort would pass. But it just got worse.
I'm a hiker, so I remembered what had caused me to feel that kind of pain in the past. Walking with just a couple of bottles of water and a few fig newtons is a lot easier than carrying an overnight pack. I had gotten to the point with my weight where I was carrying around the equivalent of a 50-pound load. Of course my knees hurt. If I wanted to feel better, I was going to have to put that pack down.
Good intentions are great, but hopelessness has stalled me many times. I have to change my habits if I want to succeed, and that's annoying. Plus there's cake, which will probably be the death of me some day, even if I stay relatively skinny. But pain is an excellent motivator, even better than vanity. So I lost fifty pounds in about 11 months.
Yeah – I've read the news reports. All those people on The Biggest Loser gained all their weight back. And I know how they feel, because every previous time I have gained back the weight I lost.
Yet I still hope that this time around I'll be able to figure out how to keep from putting those extra pounds back on. Am I kidding myself? Maybe.
But failing so many times can teach you something. Even other people's failures can be instructive.
Take my buddy (who shall remain nameless so he'll still be my buddy). Recently his doctor told him that his blood-sugar levels had reached official diabetic status, and it was time to talk about insulin medication. He rebelled against the idea, saying that he believed he could get his blood-sugar levels back down to the proper levels by changing his diet.
“Give me a month!” he begged.
“I'll give you three months,” she said, and handed him some testing strips he could use to check his blood-sugar levels every day.
My buddy is a lot younger than me, so this whole diet thing is new to him. If a doctor had told me that I was technically diabetic, I would have bought a cookbook from the American Diabetes Association and started following it. Instead, my buddy decided he would eat nothing but raw vegetables, all day every day, world without end. That first week, he was starved, crazed, and in a really bad mood.
Pretty quickly, he began to cheat, big time. One day he gobbled down three Indian tacos in one sitting (beans, mutton, and chilies on fried bread – those suckers are huge). A couple of days later it was three hotdogs, two bags of potato chips, and a big can of the sugary soda he swore he would never touch again.
They say that the diet you design for yourself is the best diet. Unfortunately, for most of us that turns out to be the Delusional Idiot Diet until we finally learn from our mistakes. I've tried exactly the same thing my buddy did, throwing myself into a strict eating program with all the fervor of a religious zealot. But Alas! Starvation can turn the best of us into sinners. So big-time failure resulted. Would he listen to me when I tried to tell him that? Nope. Plus now he thinks I'm a know-it-all jerk.
He's at least half right about that; I do know some things. I know you can think you've got a handle on your weight-loss plan, and then something comes along and throws you for a loop. That protein shake you rely on to keep away the stress-hunger won't be available anymore, or they'll double the price. Your situation at work or home will blow up and leave you struggling just to get through the day without tearing out your hair. You'll throw yourself into an exercise regime that you really like, then hurt yourself and end up flat on your back. All of these things have happened to me.
But when you go through that stuff, and you watch other people struggling too, a bigger picture can emerge. You begin to see what works and what doesn't. And it gets harder to kid yourself about the consequences of doing nothing. Every day I see people laboring just to get out of their cars and up to the front door of grocery stores, because they're so heavy they can barely move. They're in pain – it's etched into their faces. But when they exit the store, it's with a cartload of all the stuff that's making them miserable.
That's what I have to look forward to if I give up.
So I count calories, because if I don't, I'll end up eating too much (I have the same problem with money). I measure my waist and step on a scale once a week, so I know my real status. I sketch out what I'm going to eat the day before, so I don't end up improvising (I'm not good at that). I exercise to keep toned and fit, but don't rely on it for weight loss, in case I end up injuring myself. Protein is an important part of my diet, and I try to keep the fat and sugar at sane levels. My calorie intake is lower than it used to be, but not so low that I can't sustain it.
A cynic might ask if it's worth it to go through so much pain and suffering if I just end up right back where I started. But actually – the suffering is no big surprise. I've been through it all before – I don't have any illusions about it. So far I've managed to keep the weight off for a year. It feels good to be rid of the knee pain, to enjoy food again instead of feeling uncomfortably full, to eat without getting indigestion. And it really feels good to walk into those thrift stores and try on anything I want. In fact, it feels so good, that may be the thing that helps me keep the weight off this time.
And if not? Well, you know what they say. Eighth time's a charm . . .