It’s Hard.

They say that losing weight is the easy part, and that keeping it off is the harder challenge. I’m not sure who “they” are, but what “they” say is true. I’ve been struggling in the past days, and I feel it’s my duty to share honestly with you what’s up. Rather than analyze this, let me just state the facts and see, in the end, if some clarity comes from me relaying the facts to you.

    • I’ve lost a lot of weight — over 250 pounds. Much of it came off through the use of meal replacements, but I’ve shown continued weight loss success with “real” food.
    • I’m a huge planner. I keep spreadsheets that I use to plan and guide my food selection and eating patterns.
    • I have a deep-seated need to have accurate records of my caloric intake, my exercise, and my weight. Knowing what I’ve done, what works, and what I can expect is a big part of what keeps me going.  Some people have to have their checkbook balanced to the penny to sleep at night.  I have to have my caloric books balanced.
    • My home was broken into recently.  In addition to the usual items (television, blu-ray player, computer, and cash), items essential to my record keeping were also taken — my bathroom scale and my food scale. For several days, I had no feedback in terms of morning weights.  I have been unable to accurately portion “tricky” foods like peanut butter, yogurt, and berries.  I’ve been a wreck.
    • Not knowing that I’m eating “just right” drives me crazy, and it makes me feel like giving up.
    • There has been considerable feedback from those around me to stop losing weight.  “You’re done.”  “Stop.”  “You’re losing too much.”  “People are asking if you’re ill.”  “Be careful and don’t go too far with this.”  I hear it every day.
    • I chose my goal weight of 180 pounds arbitrarily back when I was closer to 280.  I’ve been shifting my focus from goal weight to goal body composition.
    • As I get closer to 180 pounds, I find that I am not in the shape that I want to be in. My body doesn’t look the way I would like it to. I have a gut. I have skinny shoulders. Some people say I’m too thin.
    • My exercise routine has long consisted of 3 days of cardio (60 minutes) and 3 days of resistance + cardio (60-75 minutes total).  I’ve been in this workout cycle since reducing from cardio+resistance (2 hours per day), which was unsustainable.
    • I’ve cut back on cardio days with the goal of slowing my weight loss while still building muscle.
    • I’ve become “addicted” to hot cocoa, which I believe to be around 25 calories per 8-12 oz cup. I limit myself to 4 of these per day, 2 at work, 2 at home.
    • I’ve consumed a very low sodium diet for quite a while.
    • I have lower than typical blood pressure; I have since losing my first 50-75 pounds.
    • I’ve been getting dizzy more and more lately, especially when I stand up. This happened last summer, too. I upped my sodium then, which upped my blood pressure, and the symptoms disappeared.
    • I had my gallbladder removed recently, which has altered my digestive system somewhat. My bowel movements have slowed in frequency.
    • I find myself getting bored at the gym. I’ve been trying different cardio machines. I like the Arc trainer.
    • My pantry is pretty “safe,” in that there aren’t a lot of foods I could eat that could do serious caloric/metabolic damage.
    • I am traveling for work this week, eating foods that I buy on the road.  The plan is to buy healthy foods at a local grocery store and limit my meals out. I have access to a car, a refrigerator, and a microwave.
    • Since I’m away from home, I’m not going to be back to the weigh-in clinic for a couple of weeks. There’s less accountability here.
    • After finding that I had gained nearly a pound at the last clinic weigh-in before my departure on this trip, I wasn’t in the best of spirits. Knowing this was probably mainly water weight from my increased sodium intake to help counteract my dizziness made me feel a little better. Very little.
    • The stress of having my home broken into, my things pilfered, and then having to be away for an extended period has caused me considerable anxiety.

Putting it all together, here’s one possible narrative that may explain this. After what seems to be an eternity of making good choices and eating right, I’ve lost pounds.  My body, as I perceive it, isn’t what I had hoped it would look and feel like at my goal. I’m almost to the end of the weight loss portion of my journey, and the way my body looks doesn’t make me feel good at all. I’ve decided that if I lose much more weight, I will look emaciated. My gut is going to have to come off through surgery, and that’s going to have to come as the funds become available. There’s nothing that can be done other than waiting. I’ve been good about saving, and I’m over a third of the way there. It is just going to take patience.

In terms of “systems thinking,” I usually change a single variable at a time. Maybe I’ll see what happens if I add in a different kind of protein. Maybe I’ll tweak my gym schedule and see how my weight responds. This week, multiple variables have shifted all at once — number of hours of workout per week, types of foods consumed, uncertain portion sizes, and amount of sodium consumed.  Without being able to keep up with my progress at home, it’s a gamble walking into the weight loss clinic.  I can typically predict within a half a pound how much I will weigh on the clinic scale.  It’s uncomfortable not knowing how my actions are working or not working.

While the multi-variable weight situation would normally be manageable, the stress of the break-in took me from being on the verge of losing control, pushing me to the breaking point.  I don’t feel that I’ve broken down.  I feel that I’ve been on the edge of the cliff with my arms flailing and my footing slipping.  At no time have I laid down face first in a cheesecake.  Many times this week, however, I’ve reached the end of my food budget and said, “I don’t care.  I’m going to eat that banana anyway,” or, “I know how much a portion of peanut butter is.  I can’t know for sure how much I’m putting on this piece of toast, but I know for dang sure it’s more than one portion.”

Because there are so many variables all mixing and mingling to make my weight what it is, it’s impossible for me to say, “It’ll be OK.  You kept your calorie expenditure and intake steady, so this is all water weight from the increased sodium intake.”  I can’t say, “Stopping cardio one additional day a week is too much — see how much it affected your weekly weight change?”  I’m just going to have to do the best I can do and hope my body cooperates.

Where I Stand Today

I’m in a hotel in Hickory, North Carolina.  I did a bit of shopping after checking in, and I’ve set up a little healthy pantry in my room with the goal of continuing my exchange-based meal planning, preparation, and consumption while on the road.  I hope to stick to my existing 1500-1600 Calorie level.  I chose this hotel specifically because it was the only one in my budget with a fitness center.  I intend to resume cardio and resistance training tomorrow.

I.  Am.  On.  The.  Wagon.

I never fell off the wagon, exactly, but my weight is trending in the wrong direction for a number of possible reasons, none of which I can point a finger to as the definite cause.  I am dedicated to reaching a healthy weight, whatever number that turns out to be on the scale, and working to exercise my body until it looks and feels more like what I want it to.

It’s Hard.

4 thoughts on “It’s Hard.

  1. Jennifer says:

    Stress itself can mess with your weight and in addition to the stress of the break in and the stress of traveling, you are so meticulous with your record keeping that not knowing exactly what you’re eating is even more stress. You’re doing amazing, just let yourself breathe for a minute. You will not undo all your hard work due to a few days of uncertainty. You’re learning valuable lessons that will help you in the long run.

    I know a lot of people who swear by weight training… it will definitely help reshape your body. But just be aware that you may not actually see much progress on the scale with weight training as much as you will in body composition and inches lost.

  2. linda says:

    A break in violates everything you felt was safe. The stress alone adds to your being unsure in your weight loss. Don’t let the thief rob you of your progress- continue doing what you know is right to do and say to the thief- “you are not robbing me of what I have worked so hard for”- and then proceed the way you have. You will win the war- one battle at a time. We all have the greatest respect and admiration for what you have accomplished, Daniel, so hang in there and know you will be looking the way you want. Losing is sometimes easier than maintaining so choose a new goal and work toward it!

  3. bkp123 says:

    I envy you and everything you have done. I know it’s easy to say but not easy to do but don’t worry about what the scale says too much. Like you said, the sodium intake can make it fluctuate a couple of pounds here and there. Continue to do what your are doing and I think lifting weights is the right thing to do. It will make you feel better, stronger and change your body composition. Again, you are doing great and you are an inspiration to me and many others!

  4. […] trip to the clinic, which was May 1, I have gained 5.8 pounds. I encourage you to look back at my It’s Hard post for my reflections on why this is the case. At this point, I’m not writing to […]

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