Monday, May 12, 2008

Heavy Issues

Hope you all had a great Mother's Day. Mine was a let down compared to last year, when I actually got to spend it with my mom. These are things you take for granted living so far away. That and snow at the end of April. No, instead I spent Mother's Day sobbing and sniffling after dropping the kittens off at their next destination in life. They were spayed/neutered, de-fleaed, de-wormed, vaccinated and are now "adoptable", especially after I spent 12 days socializing (read: becoming extremely attached to) them. After a couple days recovery at the clinic, they will then be on display at PetSmart so the whole world can bear witness to their adorableness, and hopefully someone will smart enough to take one or both of them home. The only thing I didn't like about the particular group that took my kittens is what a clean break it was, simply dropping them off without knowing how they fared the procedures and I likely won't hear when they get adopted. I understand it is better and that people more used to fostering kittens are used to this, but the only other kittens I've taken in for more than a day now live with people I know or at least feel comfortable asking after.

But that's not what I chose to write about today. I decided to write about weight. You see, way back in another life when Dean and I were just starting to "get comfortable" (i.e. "let ourselves go a little") and I had to be put on antidepressants, the numbers on the scale started creeping up and up until the whole thing gave me such a complex I couldn't stand to watch anymore. But I couldn't stop eating eating either. I tried several times to lose weight the normal way, you know yo-yo dieting and overextending myself at the gym until I could no longer keep up that lifestyle.

Then I tried to go the more resigned, slow route of buying an exercise bike, and making proper dietary changes so that at least if I was going to be "plump" I would be healthy. Even riding the bike on a regular basis wasn't enough to lose the weight, but I think it stopped me from gaining any more. My frustration was so deep that it was actually a big reason I decided to go off the antidepressants because even my doctor confirmed that they were definitely impeding weight loss.

But no sooner had I gotten off the drugs than I spent the summer in Minnesota, where I vowed to walk around the lakes to shed the pounds. Unfortunately, Minnesota also has its fair share of excellent restaurants and food became even more a part of my social life and personal reward system than it is here. Not to mention that my dad and stepmom are phenomenal cooks who were more than happy to show off their culinary prowess while I was in town. Needless to say, I didn't lose any weight in Minnesota (if anything I packed on more) and I didn't even have the meds to blame.

Before Dean and I got together and before the medication, I never ever had weight issues. I've never been skinny, I've always had curves but the curves that got looks (and got Deano!) and I've always preferred to be voluptuous rather than stick-like. Unfortunately, its us curvaceous women who are often betrayed by our metabolism. That's why I felt like I had gotten slapped in the face when during my rounds at the doctor's offices in November I was told how extremely healthy I was, but that I could "stand to lose a little weight". Ouch.

After that when I was starting to think about writing my dissertation, I had a heart-to-heart with myself. The goal was "damage control", not gain any more weight before graduating. I thought it would be impossible to actually lose weight while writing my dissertation. I had less time to exercise and we'd in all likelihood be eating out a lot. The guidelines I made for myself:

(1) No excuses, get on the bike at least 5 times a week. I might not have as much time on my hands, but the mental clarity exercising brings is worth the time set aside to do so. Instead of the "breaks" that I would certainly allow myself while working from home, the mid-morning break was reserved for the bike. It became a routine for me to get up, drink a cup of coffee and work on my dissertation for two hours. Exercise for 30-35 minutes, shower, return to work. This actually made it a lot easier to look forward to getting on the bike (a "break" where I got to listen to podcasts for 30 minutes to clear my brain) and easier to return to work when finished.

(2) Since I was going to be eating out a lot, every meal had to still have a veggie, at the expense of one starch. I could still have a hamburger or chicken wings, but had to have a salad or steamed broccoli instead of fries. I did this more to keep my immune system strong. I don't even like french fries that much anymore.

(3) No more alcohol. Since I often worked late into the night, I drank iced tea with Splenda instead of beer or wine at restaurants. Once every few weeks I'd splurge and get tipsy at a ball game. But the "new tipsy" happened after far fewer beers than the "old tipsy". I was a cheaper date, too.

So the result? I was too scared to weigh myself when I started with this new plan. But after my pants felt a tad looser, I bit the bullet and tracked my progress for fun. I've lost somewhere between 20-25 pounds since November. I'm down two pants sizes and the great part is I've kept up my rules and have no intention of stopping. The only change I've made is to work out in the early morning because these days I actually go into the lab again. But possibly the best part is that Deano has watched me make these small changes, seen the results and about six weeks ago decided to make changes of his own. He has lost 15 pounds (I know, guys' ability to drop weight makes me sick as well) and is still satisfied with his eating and work out regimen. It's funny how when you stop thinking so hard about both weight AND food, the results start to show up. About a month ago I had lunch with a friend of mine who I hadn't seen in a while. Her first comment was, "Wow, stress agrees with you." That's the upshot.


Jackie said...

Congrats!! That's awesome!!!

gabrielle said...

Congratulations, Natalie. I’m so happy that you were able to stick to this regime with all the chaos and uncertainty in your life these past months—the hardest of times to engender new habits.
Funny thing is that the only time I have ever been able to shed pounds is either when I’m super stressed or sick. What I’ve found is that having a positive self image and focusing on wellbeing rather than cultural norms works best for me overall.
BTW, the optimal weight charts have shifted drastically over the years. Just look at a photo of Marilyn Monroe!

Happy Mother's Day. Closed adoptions suck!!!

dr sardonicus said...

Congratulations to both of you!

Scott said...

Losing the french fries and the beer were two biggies. I think my weight has maintained constant due to the loss of sugar drinks at dinner, replaced with plain-ole water. Funny that I don't even miss it, similar to your french fries. Lately though I've been cheating, getting the meat lovers pizza and the quarter pounder with cheese instead of veggie lovers and grilled chicken. Life needs to be enjoyed as well, since there isn't much else to it.

dancingo4 said...

Congrats! That is fabulous. And I admire your willingness to talk/blog about it. You are simply amazing. Miss you.

Jeni said...

I really need to shed more than a few pounds but exercise and my back and legs don't get along -won't play nicely, ya know -so I have to figure out some way to move a little more. With warmer weather now, I'm hoping maybe to try to walk at least a little bit every chance I get. I don't eat all that much -normally -but too much immobility and what calories I do ingest then turn immediately into fat cells who then invite their own friends and family to move in too. Or so it seems. Glad to hear your method worked and maybe, just a little bit of walking, less sitting (in front of the computer mostly) probably wouldn't hurt me in the least.

Minnesotablue said...

Magnetbabe: How great is that. Congratulations to both you and Deano. I find that when I am stressed out I lose weight but then the stressed out feeling is not good either. Keep up the good work

fermicat said...

Good plan! I wish I had your willpower.

I keep wanting to get in better shape, but so far all I have been able to force myself to do it take the stairs to and from my parking spot at work. It isn't as trivial as it sounds -- I usually park eight levels up from my work floor! That is quite the haul at the tired end of the day.

But as for eating out less and cutting back on wine consumption... well, turns out that is harder than it seems.

Dianne said...

I love that you miss the kittens. The fattest part of you is your heart.

If you feel healthy and strong and are enjoyed the increased activity then that's wonderful. And wonderful for Deano (that's so cute) too.

Be healthy and happy and look however YOU want to look.

LL said...

Hmmmmm... when you said we'd be seeing less of you when writing your dissertation I had no idea this is what you meant. ;)