Health, Yeah!: An Introduction
It’s a really quick road from “I gotta lose some weight” to “Holy crap! My non-stretch clothes don’t fit anymore!”
Granted, I’ve never been thin. I started putting on the pounds at age 4 or 5, when I decided ice cream sundaes were an acceptable everyday snack and no one stopped me. Throughout junior high, a frenemy called me Thunder Thighs. In college, I gained then lost weight, thanks to the introduction of the college cafeteria and the subsequent introduction of constant walking from dorms to classes.
But lately, I’ve bulked up again. It started slowly: just 5 pounds or so more than I was the previous year. Then I went through some stuff (don’t we all?), and suddenly the scale wasn’t in the high 150s anymore. It was at 164.
Like I said, holy crap.
So I’m going on a 30-day adventure to lose weight. I’m going to write about this experience about once a week for the next month, in a series of blog posts called “Health, Yeah!” I’ll write about what I’ve learned, what’s working, where I’ve misstepped — and how you can avoid my mistakes.
This adventure is going to be a little embarrassing for me. (I will probably regret telling the Internet how much I weigh.) But I’m looking forward to the end results. And it if helps just one other person get healthier and happier, it’ll be worth it.
Why am I doing this? Well, partially because I want to fit into my vintage dresses again. But mostly because I’m 35 and the warranty on this body is starting to expire. A 2-year-old knee injury still flares up. My vision deteriorates more every year. And I’m staring down the road of osteoporosis, which wrecked my grandmother’s body and which is already attacking my mother.
I have to lose weight and get healthy now, because I don’t want my life to totally suck tomorrow.
Here’s how I’m going to do it.
In 2006, I lost 35 pounds.
While that’s impressive and while I still brag about it at parties, the reason I lost 35 pounds is because I’d gained 35 pounds between 2001 and 2006. What caused it, exactly? Transitioning from Boston’s walking-heavy lifestyle back to the car culture of Texas? Drinking too much in grad school? Taking the birth control shot? Trying a number of different antidepressants? Working at a job I hated — one conveniently located next to a greasy cafeteria? Who knows. All I knew is how massive and puffy I looked in friends’ pictures. The scale said 189; every day, I feared it would be closer to 200. I had to buy clothing 2-3 sizes bigger than what I used to wear — and I wondered how big they’d need to be next year.
I hated, Hated, HATED the idea of going to a gym. I despised P.E. class in school; why the hell would I pay money for it now? But together, David and I joined Hyde Park Gym for 2 reasons:
- It was affordable.
- It was within walking distance.
It also turned out to be a wonderful and welcoming place (despite the somewhat intimidating giant muscular arm sculpture in front). And I met Amalia there.
Amalia was the first — and best — personal trainer I’ve ever had. She was supportive without being saccharine. She was extremely smart and incredibly clever. She gave me honest praise on my good days, and supportive words on my less-than-good days. And as a perfectionist, less-than-good days are the make-or-break days for me. They’re the days that kill my goals and make me run from the shame of my own failure. But working with Amalia, I never felt like a failure. Even on the worst days, I felt like the opposite of one.
It took me from January to October to lose all the weight. Within the first couple of months, my coworkers started commenting on how different I looked. I hit a plateau at around 20 or 25 pounds, but eventually, I worked through it. All thanks to Amalia.
Then, in 2007, David and I moved to northwest Austin. We joined a cheap and overcrowded gym in our new neighborhood, then switched to a fancy gym full of shiny equipment and protein bars. But I hated it.
I hired a new trainer — a Barbie-like girl who talked endlessly about how fit she was, and who stared at me dumbly when I mentioned my left knee was a bit delicate. I didn’t hire her for a second session.
I tried classes. They were either too challenging or too crowded. I feared cardio kickboxing would end with me getting kicked in the face. Then I got serious lower back pain after taking another trainer’s small group class for a few weeks, and I went back to solitary work-outs. “I don’t need a trainer,” I told myself. “I can do this on my own.” But I soon became bored on my circuit of exercises. I wasn’t sure how to switch things up, and I was scared of getting another injury. Working out became a dreaded obligation.
In early 2011, I injured my right knee in a trapeze class. (So much for fulfilling my 4-year-old self’s dream of joining the circus.) That put me nearly out of commission for a while. My weight crept up from the mid-150s to the high 150s.
After getting physical therapy in early 2012, I started working out again. I could ride an exercise bike for the first time in years!
But it wasn’t enough. My suits and tweed skirts didn’t fit anymore.
Late last year, I looked up Amalia. She had started her own gym: GrassIron Gym. I started taking CardioStrong classes there. My friendly group of classmates was pretty diverse as far as ages and athleticism went; but my injuries kept me away from several of the exercises. Soon, pain in my right knee flared up again. And after three months of once-a-week classes and one month of twice-a-week classes, the scale informed me that I was now at 164 pounds.
“I have to lose weight,” I told Amalia last week. I knew a month of personal training wouldn’t be cheap, especially now that I’m a freelancer. But when I factored in the cost of physical therapy, of buying new clothes, of the inevitable health issues (and emotional issues) I would have if this weight gain continued into my late 30s and 40s, I knew I had to do it.
“But no one’s ever lost weight and kept it off by exercise alone,” Amalia told me. “You have to make changes to your diary. Start by keeping a food diary.”
And, Darth Vader-like, all I could think was, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
When I moved back to Texas in 2001, my mother was really getting into Weight Watchers. Relatively thin her whole life, she’d lost even more weight on their system. She bought me their calorie counting book.
I made it one day. Depressed at how many calories I’d consumed by lunch time, I chucked the idea so I could enjoy an extra slice of cheese pizza in peace.
But I trust Amalia. And I know she’s right. My mother and several of my friends attest to the power of calorie counting. So I set up a profile on My Fitness Pal and started logging my food.
The first day, I tried. I tried really hard. And I was still almost 300 calories over my goal.
“Only 300 calories over on your first day?” Amalia said. “You’re doing pretty well so far.”
I haven’t told her about the second day yet. I was about 900 calories over.
I also haven’t told her about today, the third day, and how I had tacos chock-full of cheese and guacamole for lunch. But I only had half a cake ball, so, you know, progress.
I had my first training session with Amalia yesterday morning. It was just as awesome as I remembered: challenging, yet doable; and I’m sore as hell today (though in a good way). My second session will be early next week, and I’ll do a self-guided session later in the week. I look forward to reporting back on those.
In the meantime, if you’ve got any exercise, nutrition, or weight loss advice to share, please do so. I’d love to hear it. (What I’m not going to love: all the spam comments this series of posts eventually gets. The words “weight loss” are like a lightning rod for that crap. Hooray for comment moderation!)
Copyright 2013, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.