Today at the gym, I loaded up a bar with 135 pounds and lifted it on my shoulders.
I paused for a minute, considering the gravity of that weight. There's nothing special about 135 pounds, but for me it's meaningful: That's about how much weight I lost over the course of 15 months, and a loss I've maintained for more than two years.
The gym was busier today than it has been in months. It was filled with lots of new faces, people who made a resolution to make a change in 2015.
I was once one of those people, but my resolution date was June 16, 2011. That was the the day I joined MFP shortly after signing up for a gym. It was also the day I printed this out and taped it to my work computer:
I didn't really know what I'd accomplish. I weighed more than 300 pounds. The weight of that was enormous. It meant I had little energy. I didn't want to do active things with my family because I couldn't keep up. Adventures I secretly wanted to experience, like rock climbing and skydiving, weren't options for me. I hated going to the doctor because I didn't want to face the scale. I knew that my relative health was an illusion, because the force of that extra weight would eventually change it.
But most of all, I just didn't feel like I was living a complete life. I was happy enough, but something was missing.
So I decided to make a change.
It wasn't always easy. First, I had to overcome a major mental block: reaching a healthy weight for me meant losing 130 pounds. One Hundred Thirty Pounds. Can you sense the gravity of that? That meant there was no way I'd make my goal in even a year. I'd have to dedicate myself for the long-term.
And it turns out that was the secret formula: dedicating myself for the long-term. I knew I couldn't keep up a highly restrictive diet or insane workout schedule for that long. I couldn't put my life on hold for more than a year; I needed something manageable, that let me live happily and without feeling like I was on a diet for ages. A plan that I wouldn't give up on.
So that's what I did. I started working out - hard, but not so hard that I burned out. I tracked my calories and gradually implemented healthy changes. I still ate treats, but they were weighed and logged.
When things were hard, I'd look at that silly little motivational saying on my computer and remind myself that it was okay that today was not a good day, because it's the long-term that matters. It was okay that I only lost half a pound this week because every half pound adds up. It was okay that I didn't feel well so skipped a workout, because it was just one workout of hundreds that year. It was okay to enjoy my birthday, a holiday, a wedding with food because I was diligent the rest of the time. What mattered was that I didn't give up.
The weight dropped steadily. Every month was a new victory on the scale. I learned to love fitness and made, met, and shattered goals. Logging became second nature; exercise was a welcome part of my day, not a chore.
On my one-year anniversary, I was 120 pounds down. A few months later, I'd met my goal weight.
Typing that now makes me teary. I don't think I realized what I'd accomplished in that length of time. And I couldn't have know it then, because the true accomplishment wasn't losing the weight, it was changing my life.
Instead of living like a 300-pound person, I live like a 175-pound one. And so I am one. I maintain just like I lost. Almost like magic, I stay within my five-pound maintenance range. Sometimes - like now! - I'm above it, but when I return to my habits, I settle back where I want to be.
I'm happier, and more confident. I try things I'd never have tried before. Simple acts, like buying clothes, traveling, and seeing the doctor for a cold, are not stressful like they used to be. I am driven and goal-oriented. I'm a better partner and parent. I'm kinder to myself. I respect my body in a way I never have before. And it's important to me that you know that these changes are not just the result of being smaller: they're the result of changing my entire relationship to food and my body.
Things are still hard sometimes, and I still go back to that saying: A year from now you will wish you started today. I'm not starting anymore, but I think of who I want to be in one year. I think about how my choices today impact that, for better or worse, and I try to stay focused on the long-term.
Today, after I loaded up that barbell with 135 pounds and put it on my shoulders, I squatted it. I felt the impact of that weight down the length of my whole body - the way my everything worked to force it back up, from my feet to my back. I felt the creak in my hips, the flex in my ankles, the tension in my glutes.
And then when I was done, I re-set the bar, unloaded the weight, and skipped away, feeling lighter than I have in years. Because I am - both literally and metaphorically.
So, my message to the new MFPers who joined up and want to make 2015 your year is simple:
Strive toward being the person you want to be in January of 2016. You may slide back sometimes, but fight your way forward. You may not reach your goal by 2016, but I promise you that if you make impactful strides toward a healthier life, you will have every reason in the world to be proud of yourself.
Happy New Year.
Since I know people like these, here's a before/current-ish pic:
Posted on 1/06/2015 by ShannonMpls
I lost more than 130 pounds and I've managed, somehow, to keep that weight loss off pretty effortlessly for more than two years.
I say "pretty effortlessly" because I feel like I don't actually work that hard at weight maintenance. I keep up with the same habits I developed while losing: planning, logging, exercise. I also give myself a lot of slack, sometimes so much slack that I step on the scale terrified that I've gained 10 pounds even though my clothes the and mirror tell me I haven't.
And for the most part, I've found that sticking to this plan is second-nature. I don't have to dig very deep most of the time to keep this up.
Last week, though, was different. I would log my day out in the morning like usual, but then not stick to my plan. I skipped workouts for no real reason. I baked but then couldn't stick to a small portion, something I've mastered over the last few years.
This is not the first time I've had a week "off" from my regular habits, but this is one of very few times that I've taken the "off" week without a real reason - no vacation, no holiday, just a big case of the "winter is coming" blahs.
That scares me a little, because it's so easy to see how quickly one can drop those hard-earned habits and slip back into the habits that supported obesity, not a healthy and active body.
So this is my list of reasons why gaining back weight is not an option, why I'm in control, why this is worth it, why I'm never going back.
1) The example I set for my son.
2) Bike riding for miles.
3) Hiking - any trail, no matter how steep.
4) My gym friends and class instructors.
5) I'm on the Board of my YMCA. They know my story. I want this to be the end, not a middle chapter of weight loss success turned failure.
6) My old personal trainer, who helped me go from 300+ pounds to 175 with support and moderation and never judgment.
7) Those happy, glorious runs, where I feel like nothing else matters except the footfalls on the pavement.
8) The cross country skis in my basement, purchased at the end of the season last year, waiting to discover new trails.
9) The three sets of snowshoes in the garage, daddy's, mommy's, and my little boy's, as proof that we Minnesotans can enjoy all kinds of weather. Together.
10) Our spring break trip - not content to sit on a beach, we're going to southern Utah to hike some of the most amazing trails in the nation.
11) Shopping for clothes at any store I want to, because I fit into clothes everywhere.
12) The expensive jackets I've finally bought...no more Old Navy coats for me, thinking "I will buy a cheap jacket because I might lose weight this year...."
13) My closet, full of clothing I love that fits THIS body.
14) The confidence I've earned.
15) The privilege of going to the doctor with a medical concern and not having it immediately blamed on my weight.
16) Not avoiding a mirror at any cost.
17) Comfortable airline travel. It's remarkable how spacious those seats are when you're not overflowing.
18) Proving the "you'll just gain it back" jerks wrong.
19) Continuing to be an inspiration to my amazing MFP friends.
20) Getting back family photos and not hating them all because I think I look terrible.
21) No more Lane Bryant. Ever.
22) Energy, sometimes more than I know what to do with.
23) My beagle-dog, who gets so many more walks than he used to.
24) The gas I save walking and biking instead of driving.
25) Knowing I'm feeding my son nourishing and healthy food.
26) Knowing I'm feeling myself nourishing and healthy food.
27) This is a hard one to type because I hate this about society and don't love that I like it, but: people are nicer to me now. I feel like I'm taken more seriously in my profession. Men are more apt to open the door for me. Sad but true.
28) I just feel better when I'm living a healthier life. Last Friday, after a very off-week, I felt off too: bloated, more tired, vaguely depressed.
29) I love the feeling of constant improvement.
30) I deserve a healthy life.
The bottom line is that this whole process of losing weight and getting healthier has made me a happier person. This isn't because people with obesity can't be happy; to the contrary, I was happy when I weighed 300 pounds too.
But now I'm just more confident and I enjoy my life more. And I deserve to enjoy this life.
That's why I'm not going back. This is just a little blip in the radar. It's not the first and it won't be the last. I'll roll with it, deal with it, and continue forward, because forward is really the only direction I'm interested in going. My life is simply too full for extra weight. There's no room for it. I'm in control, just like I always have been, and my habits are strong enough to get my through this little detour.
It's totally worth it.
At least the cookies I ate too many of were great :)
Posted on 11/17/2014 by ShannonMpls
Yesterday I had the honor to chat with Ruth Bader Ginsburg - a brilliant lawyer, an inspiration to me and so many women, a groundbreaker, a world-changer, an amazing person with biting wit and sharp insight.
How did I spend this precious time with the notorious RBG?
Talking about how many push-ups we can do :)
Posted on 9/17/2014 by ShannonMpls
August was a great month. I flew to Missouri and met up with friends to go to Tori Amos concerts, something we've been doing every tour for 17 years. We drove the midwest, seeing shows in St. Louis, Kansas City, St. Paul, Chicago, and Detroit. We traveled 1,500 miles in a Prius, drinking too much caffeine, not enough water, and having a great time. I didn't do my regular workouts, but I spent a lot of time sitting outside and inside venues. I flew home with my heart overflowing: I adore Tori, I adore my friends, and this tour was the best I've ever experienced.
The day after arriving at home, I left with my family to drive way up north for a camping and hiking excursion...another 800 miles in the car.
I got home, worked two days, then woke up early to pack for a work conference - more time in the car! This time, though, I woke up with calf pain in both legs. After an hour, the pain in the right leg subsided but the left leg remained. It felt just like a muscle cramp.
I assumed I had hurt it in the gym; after all, I'd been out my regular routine for awhile and hit it hard during the few days I had.
But Friday, during my conference, it felt...wrong. I massaged the sore area to find that it was isolated in one spot. I consulted Dr. Google and the first entry said <spoiler alert> "deep vein thrombosis."
Not possible, right? I'm a healthy weight (at least now I am! I've been maintaining my 130+ pound weight loss for just shy of two years), fit, and have never had any clotting issues before. Though I'd spent a lot of time in the car, I still averaged 9,000 steps a day and we never went more than 2-3 hours without stopping.
But I couldn't ignore the feeling that something was wrong. I sneaked out of my conference session to call the nurse line, who basically told me "you're crazy. you hurt yourself at the gym. give it a few days."
That should have reassured me but it didn't. Something just didn't feel right.
Fast forward to Monday. I went to my regular group exercise class and felt exhausted and unable to keep up. Just tired, I guess? I limped home from work and immediately iced my very painful calf. After a few minutes, I could walk - albeit with a slight limp - without major pain.
The next day I was in a hearing for work, and I was paying more attention to my own leg than opposing counsel's arguments. My ankle was tingly. My calf continued to hurt. It just felt wrong.
Again I called the nurse line, but this one more urgently told me to come in.
Two urgent care visits later and I was laying on an ultrasound table. The tech found the first clot within seconds. There was another clot further down in my thigh, then the tech told me she found "the worst clot I've seen in weeks" behind my knee. An overnight hospitalization, a medical alert bracelet, and a prescription for an anticoagulant later, and I was sent home with no activity restrictions but exhausted, short of breath, and just plain feeling awful.
For once Dr. Google was right. But, more aptly, I was right. I knew within 24 hours that I had a deep vein thrombosis. I was so certain of this that I changed out of my suit and into stretchy pants and a comfortable tshirt before going to urgent care, packing my ipad and kindle, fully knowing I was unlikely to sleep in my own bed that night.
My body told me, loud and clear, that something was wrong. But because I'm prone to conclusion-jumping, because DVT was less likely than the nurse's explanation of hurting myself at the gym, I ignored my symptoms for days. And that choice could have been literally deadly.
I've since learned that, for about 15-25% of those with DVT, the first symptom is a fatal pulmonary embolism. Had I let this go, the clots would have continued to grow, and it is more than remotely possible one could have dislodged and traveled to my lungs, restricting my breathing or even worse, ending my life.
One thing that the process of losing weight and getting fit has done for me is make me more aware of my body. I know when things are just not right. I know when something is off. And I need to learn to trust my instincts in this regard, to not write off my gut feelings are pure paranoia.
Lucky for me, I'm okay. I'm back to my regular routine, though still not feeling 100%. But best of all, I'm still here. I wasn't thrilled to be in the hospital, but every day I wake up to this little guy is a good one.
We're not totally sure at this point what caused my clot. Maybe it was a perfect cocktail of travel and dehydration. It could be a genetic clotting issue, though I've already tested negative for Factor V and Factor II (which is odd since almost everyone in my family is Factor II positive). I am still working with a specialist to help determine if my clots were provoked or idiopathic. I don't know how long I'll be on medication (Xarelto), but it will be at least three months. I will likely have another ultrasound in a few weeks to determine if my clots are dissolved or calcified.
While I've got you all here, please know to watch out for the following:
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) - Symptoms range from mild to severe; may involve the foot, ankle, calf, whole leg or arm. The classic symptoms are:
Pain (mine felt just like a muscle cramp and this was my only symptom!)
Discoloration (bluish or reddish)
A potentially life-threatening complication of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is pulmonary embolism, often referred to as PE for short. A PE occurs when a blood clot breaks off, travels through the blood stream and lodges in the lung.
Pulmonary Embolism (PE): A blood clot in the lungs. The classic symptoms are:
Shortness of breath
Chest pain (may be worse with deep breath)
Unexplained cough (may cough up blood)
Unexplained rapid heart rate
Some of the risk factors include hospitalization/immobilization, prolonged sitting, trauma, birth control pills, obesity, smoking, and genetic clotting factors.
You can help prevent travel-related thromboses by staying active (get up at least once an hour) and hydrated.
This info and much more is available at: http://www.clotconnect.org/
I don't like asking for "Likes" but please do like/comment so that more of the MFP community sees this.
I never in a million years thought this would happen to me, and it can happen to you too. Knowledge = power, the more you know, and all that afterschool special stuff.
Posted on 9/08/2014 by ShannonMpls
June 16, 2011.
That's the day I started logging my food on MFP. In hindsight, this was a momentous day though I didn't realize it at the time. I didn't expect this little game to go anywhere. I expected to lose interest but not actually lose much, if any, weight. None of my half-hearted efforts had worked before, why should this one?
But this time was different, because MFP was different. Instead of vague ideas about "eating better," I had a way to quantify it. Instead of following a weird program that told me what to eat and when, I just had a calorie goal to stick to and I could fill it with anything. I had a ticker that would display my weight loss to date so I could see the results of my effort.
But first, I had to weigh myself to see where I started. 308.5. That was enough to make me want to quit before I even got started. I didn't even know what my goal weight should have been, but I knew I had more than a hundred pounds to lose. I couldn't face that; I was embarassed to even have that amount of weight listed on my profile. So I told MFP I wanted to weigh 275. I thought I could probably do that.
So I got to business. It wasn't long before I hit 275, and I kept on going.
On June 16, 2012 - one year later - I weighed 188.5. I lost exactly 120 pounds in one year.
On September 23, 2012, 18 months after starting, I hit my goal weight of 175. [My success story post from the forums is here]
Today, exactly three years from day one, I weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 173-178, the range I refer to as my maintenance weight. Sometimes I'm a little above, sometimes (rarely! ha) a little below, but this is where I hang out most of the time; a happy, healthy weight.
On this three-year anniversary, I want to share a couple things I've learned that helped me. [my 1000 day post is here.]
1. If you have a lot of weight to lose, don't set out to lose a lot of weight.
Instead, aim to lose 20 pounds. Even if that's all you lose, you will still be 20 pounds lighter and that will make a big difference. I didn't set out to lose 130 pounds, I set out to weigh 275. Then I changed my goal to 250. Then it was 225. Then it was 208.5. Then 199, then 185 - well, you get the picture. Set a series of small, obtainable goals; it's not so hardto eat an elephant if you go one bite at a time.
I know people say you don't need exercise to lose weight, and they're right. So don't exercise to lose weight. Instead, exercise to change your relationship with your body and with food. If the only reason you are exercising is to eat more, I think you're doing it wrong. I exercise because I enjoy it, first and foremost. I've learned to love it and I simply feel better when I do it. Running is a mediation; weight lifting is a challenge. Exercise has shown me that I'm an athlete, that I can be graceful, that I am strong and capable. It gives me a place to vent stress. It gives me time in my head in peace. It means that no matter what else is going on in my life, this hour is for me - purely for me. Find what you love and do it, whether it's walking or lifting or swimming. Move your body, and I guarantee that your relationship with it - and the food you eat to fuel it - will change. [See also - Why I Run.]
3. Love Yourself Now.
When I hit goal weight, I'll be happier. I'll love my body. Life will be perfect.
Sorry, that's not gonna happen. Nothing magic happen when you reach an arbitrary goal on the scale.
You have to get right with yourself now. If you don't love yourself - including your body, even if it's fat, even if you aren't happy in it now - it isn't going to *snap!* be better you reach your goal.
I've tried to lose weight out of disgust and it didn't work. It didn't last. It didn't click. This time, my decision to lose weight was not motivated out of self-hatred, it was because I was uncomfortable in my own skin and felt that my body was holding me back from the adventures I wanted to have. I felt like I deserved more.
So work - now - to make peace with who you are. If you're not happy with things, change them, but motivate it from love for yourself and a desire to live a happier life, not to obliterate who you are. You're beautiful now. It's okay to strive for more; that is downright required to make change in my opinion. But know that you're good enough already. [Related post - Donating Clothes, Sorting Emotions.]
4. Don't Get Lost in the Details.
Those MFP forums can sure get....intense, huh? Low carb, high protein, weigh everything you eat, eschew artificial sweeteners, only lift weights, do this, don't do that.
I'll let you in on a secret: most of that doesn't matter all that much.
The most important thing you can do is start. Then don't stop. Starting for you might mean simply logging your food regardless of a calorie goal, or sticking to a calorie goal, or trying to get in 10,000 steps a day. Making a series of small changes, and then sticking with them, makes all the difference.
Here's a little story. Way back in the summer of 2011, I had a couple MFP friends who were having amazing success, but they'd do things like eat 1200 and burn 1500 from a ton of exercise. Or they'd insist that a fruit salad was what they wanted for dessert instead of a slice of cake on their birthday. They'd stick to super rigid calorie restrictions, and eat the same thing every day.
That didn't sound fun, but despite that, I was aching with jealousy. They were losing more than I was. I thought about changing how I was doing things, exercising more, eating less. But then I remembered Dr. Yoni Freedhoff's advice - "live the healthiest life you can ENJOY." I stuck with my plan - tracking calories, exercising, and not much else in the way of details.
Well, three years later, guess how many of those MFPers I'm referring to hit their goal weight at all, let alone are still maintaining it like I am? Spoiler alert: None.
My point is - perseverance is what will make you successful. You can play with macroratios and meal timing and fasted cardio. That might affect how quickly you lose, or how easy it is to stick to your plan.
But the most important thing is simply to start.
5. Don't Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good.
There is a lot of chatter on the forums about how you need a food scale and MUST weigh everything that goes in your mouth, and to never use generic database entries, and that you absolutely have to have a heart rate monitor to record exercise and if you're not doing things perfectly, you might as well not be doing them.
Wrong. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.
I do use a food scale most of the time. I log really accurately whenever I can. But sometimes I eyeball portions. I do not bring a food scale to restaurants or friend's house. I simply log the best I can.
And that's okay. If you're at a place where you're not losing as much as you'd like, that's the time to buckle down and work on more accurate logging. But you don't have to log 100% precisely to lose weight.
Similarly, you don't have to stick to your calorie goal EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Fit, thin, healthy people indulge on a holiday...then they go back to normal eating. Fit, thin, healthy people do not feel guilty for having a slice of homemade cake on their birthday, or going to a special restaurant to celebrate a special occasion.
I bring this up because it was such a sticking point for me and kept me from starting. I don't want to be perfect! I want to go on vacation and eat what I want! I want to eat at amazing restaurants sometimes! I don't want to log every morsel I eat forever and ever!
I let the idea that I must be perfect stop me from simply being....better.
Another trap we fall into is striving so hard for perfection that we let little slip-ups derail us. If you make a choice you wish you hadn't for breakfast, go off the plan for lunch, do you have a tendency to just throw in the towel and think "I'll do better tomorrow/Monday/next week?" I know I do. But if I remind myself that a few less than stellar choices cannot undo an entire week of great ones, it's much easier to stick with my plan going forward. I don't let a bad day turn into a bad week. [Related post - Eat badly yesteday? Miss a Workout? Get over it.]
You don't have to be perfect, okay? If you stick to your amazing plan 50 weeks a year, two weeks of eating a little too much is not going to make a difference. I'm living proof of this as I maintain. I feel like I've uncovered a big secret: Be awesome most of the time, and it's okay to have fun the rest of the time :)
6. Make MFP friends.
The social aspects of MFP have been a lifesaver. Some of my friends have been with me since month 1. I am consistently uplifted by their support and love. We share recipes, tips, cheer each other on. I feel like I have another family. Without this support net, things would have been harder...and less fun. Use the resources here, including the amazing community - people who will watch your back and make you laugh. Thanks, friends - I love you all.
That's it for now. My life has improved by leaps and bounds since I signed up for MFP three years ago. I'm more driven, confident, and adventurous. Sure, I wear a smaller size, but the scale does not reflect the most important changes in me.
Thanks for reading :)
I suppose I should add a picture since that is usually what people want to see!
(old after picture from last year, but the beauty of maintaining is that I still look the same. Just with longer hair).
Posted on 6/16/2014 by ShannonMpls
I've had two huge bags of clothes in the basement waiting to be sorted and donated, and I finally got on that task over the weekend.
I went through shirts and sweaters I wore all the time that looked, to me, like tents. I picked up a pair of jeans and felt ill over how large they were. And they were just 18s, not even my highest size. In fact, I remember buying those 18s and how downright giddy I was to be in a size that didn't start with 2.
I got to skirts and pants in my largest size - 22s and 24s. I literally felt sick to my stomach and started tearing up. My body fit in these clothes? How is that possible? How could I have let myself get to that size? How did my husband love me? How did friends want to be around me, a person who was so large that this skirt fit? How did I convince myself that I "carried my weight well" since I was tall? What lies was I willing to believe to stay in denial? How could I face myself in the mirror each morning, pulling these clothes out of the closet?
I was not expecting this visceral - painful, unwelcome - reaction.
It wasn't until the next day that I finally sorted out what was going on. I felt happy about donating the clothes because I know these sizes are hard to come by secondhand. I thought about the women who will find these clothes while sorting through the few plus-size racks at the thrift store.
Are they loved?
Are they worthy?
Do they have friends?
Are they beautiful?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Of course!
Putting these judgments on the body I once wore is no different than putting them on others - and I am not that person.
This blog entry is an exercise is reaffirming my love for myself - fat or thin - and my core belief that we all have intrinsic worth that goes beyond our bodies. That, for whatever reason we may gain weight, our shell does not define who we are. That though I look at these clothes with disdain, I will never speak poorly of the woman I was when I wore them. It's still me. It's always been me.
This skirt. The look on my face says it all. sidenote: shjkdakjshd my arms are coming AROUND ya'll and also someday I'll remember to clear finger smudges off my mirror before taking selfies.
These capris - I wore them often. (I'm smiling because you're supposed to smile in this kind of picture, right?):
And how about these jeans?
But here is me wearing that skirt:
And here I am wearing the capris:
And that's me in the jeans:
I can look those at these photos and be disgusted with what I see, or I can see what's really there: a happy, adorable woman spending time with her baby boy and having fun with friends. A woman who was (is) loved and smart and accomplished and valuable. A woman whose size does not define her worth.
I sometimes say that I'm a better version of me than I was before I joined MFP and I stand by that. I am more driven. I have more goals. I can have more fun with my family. My life was good before but it's better now. I simply enjoy it more now, because little - mental or physical - holds me back anymore.
This better me, however, is not because I can squeeze my butt into size 6 jeans now. It's because I've come to understand the woman in those photos above, and what happened to lead me to that size. I've worked on healing the hurt parts so that the armor of fat is no longer needed.
I didn't start losing weight because I hated who I was but because I was ready to see who I could be, and that motivation came from love. I am a better version of me not because I can step on a scale and see a healthy BMI, but because I am not afraid anymore. I used to self-limit, but now I set goals and meet challenges.
I feel whole for maybe the first time in my life.
It's complicated to sort through conflicting and ambivalent thoughts on feminism, weight loss, health-at-any-size, fat-acceptance and fat-shaming. But I can make that less complicated by stopping, right now, any shame directed at the body I had three years ago. And I can also acknowledge that I prefer my life now without framing that as a rejection of who I was.
Because, after all, it's still me. Just a different version.
So, this weekend I'll drag my bags over to the thrift store and hope the clothes end up in the hands of someone who needs them.
I'm going to keep that skirt, though; it's always good to remember where we've been, because it reminds us of where we're going.
Posted on 5/06/2014 by ShannonMpls
Just something on my mind today:
On more than one occasion, I've thought to myself - or told someone - "If I can do it, anyone can."
But that's not true. In fact, its downright arrogant. My success at losing 130 pounds, and almost two years of maintenance, is the result of a lot of things including hard work and dedication. However, perhaps the most important thing in that equation? Privilege. I was simply at a place in my life where everything came together.
Let me make a list of things that helped me achieve my goals that I have because of privilege, or just plain luck:
- A healthy body with no physical limitations or illness, no metabolic concerns.
- Money to join a gym and buy some sessions with a trainer.
- Enough in the food budget to: make healthy, filling meals; snack on almonds, Greek yogurt, and other more expensive food; eat 130g of protein a day; eschew processed, but cheap options; buy pastured meat and organic produce.
- A job flexible enough to work out over lunch instead of having to go early in the morning or late at night.
- A supportive, loving, and all-around awesome spouse, who loved me when I weighed 300 pounds and loves me now, and never belittled my efforts or complained about me weighing and logging and carefully planning our meals, who watches our son and rarely complain about my workouts (the 13 mile training runs were rough on us both...), who loves to be active with me.
- An expensive jogging stroller so when I bring my son with, I can still hit my training goals.
- A safe neighborhood to run and walk in, living in a city that values parks and trails.
- Mental stability and self-esteem; that's not to say that I don't have issues, but I've had the resources to cope with and heal from those problems so that I can move beyond them.
- A lifestyle with easy access to smartphones and the internet, funds to use to buy tools that motivate and assist.
- The ability to register for races and buy running shoes and $15/pair socks.
Of course, none of these things matter without the decision to get healthy; I had this all before I got my act together too. And, of course, many people have been successful at getting heathy without these things.
But I'm done with "If I can do it, so can you." I acknowledge that I had a headstart, and some people have a much harder hill to climb.
To the single parent working two jobs; those from developing countries; the wives with unsupportive husbands; the mobility impaired; the women with PCOS; MFPers living in poverty; older people struggling with a changed metabolism ....but still waking up everyday and using what you have to change your health - you are my heroes.
That's all :)
Posted on 4/29/2014 by ShannonMpls
It's June of 2011, I weigh more than 300 pounds, and I've joined the gym. What's more, I've actually started going. I'm grateful that the cardio machines where I initially make my home face windows, not mirrors. In fact, I don't go near the mirrors on purpose. This is how I look - I'm painfully aware that this is how I look. I don't need the gym mirror to remind me of it.
My first week at the gym, I literally worked out in pajama pants and old ratty tshirts. When I knew it would stick, I invested in baggy workout shirts and pants. And I never, ever looked at myself in the mirror if I could help it.
Then I started venturing to the free weight area, surrounded in mirrors. I couldn't actually figure out WHY there were so many mirrors. I often wished they would remove them all. I might have even filled out a comment card requesting it. It seemed like needless torture.
I lifted with my back to the mirrors whenever possible. I could not stand the sight of myself, looking like a poser, like an imposter, in my ill-fitting clothes (on my ill-fitting body...) lifting weights next to those who belonged. The way my stomach hung, my flabby arms doing a lateral raise. I hated those mirrors.
Those mirrors kept me from taking a group exercise class for months. When I finally did, I hid in the corner opposite the mirrors. I felt stupid doing zumba, I can't imagine how stupid I looked.
But regardless of those mirrors, I kept going. I kept lifting, and I started taking more group exercise classes. Slowly, without even realizing it, I stopped avoiding my reflection. I was far from perfect and I still felt out of place, but the self-consciousness was evaporating.
One day in a tabata group exercise class, I watched myself instead of averting my eyes or carefully positioning myself away from the mirrors.
I realized: I'd become an athlete. And I looked like one.
To understand the impact of this, you need to understand where I came from. I've never been thought of as an athlete. I've never been *good* at anything physical, unless bocce ball counts and I don't think it does (I have an uncanny bocce ability. Let's play sometime). I've never excelled at basketball, despite my height, or running. I couldn't keep up with my husband while biking or hiking. I've always felt awkward and silly exercising. It was easier - mentally, physically - to simply opt out.
Now I've changed this. I haven't set any running records, but I have run a half marathon, something no one in my family has come close to. I'm not a powerlifter, but I can pull and press more weight than most people I know, male or female. I'm not the most athletic person in a class, but I'm not in the middle of the pack either.
And what's the most brilliant about this? I'm so much better at all that than I was in June of 2011. I'm better at it than I was a month ago. Every training session is a chance to improve just a bit.
It's December of 2013. I'm down 130+ pounds. I've been maintaining it for 15 months. I've found strength and dedication and power I didn't know I could develop. The gym mirror isn't my enemy anymore. I don't dislike what I see, flaws and all.
So excuse me if you catch me looking at myself in those mirrors. I just sometimes literally cannot believe this is me - my body, my mind, my results. So much about weight loss has been wonderful, but shedding self-consciousness, self-hate, shame...it's downright liberating. I like how I Iook, and even better, I like who I have become. Weight loss was really just a side effect of a drastic life change that enabled me to be happier and healthier.
I'm pretty excited for 2014.
Posted on 12/18/2013 by ShannonMpls
What's better than losing 134 pounds?
On September 23, I hit a milestone more important than the day I lost 100 pounds, or the day I met my "goal" weight, or the second anniversary of the day I joined MFP.
In fact, to me, having maintained my weight for one full year is more important than any other day in this whole "new life" thing, with the exception of the day I started.
Spend a few minutes on the MFP boards and you'll learn that maintenance is hard, harder than losing.
Here's my secret, though: it's actually been kinda easy for me (so far, at least). And that's probably because I maintain doing pretty much what I while losing, only with a little more wiggle room.
The fact is that most people who lose weight, especially as much as I have, start to gain it all back (and then some) during this first year. Truthfully, I'd wager that most dieters enjoy their goal weight for a couple months, then they fall into old habits and the gradual weight creep begins.
How have I not fallen into that trap? I guess because I never went on a diet, so I never went off a diet. Instead, I made a series of changes, big and small, and stuck with them for 15 months while I lost weight. And I continue to stick with them now.
My weight has certainly fluctuated during the last year. But that's normal. There is no magic number we hit and then stick to, and trying would be futile and frustrating. Our bodies are pretty amazing, really - they hold onto water when they need to. We may pop up 5 pounds after an indulgent meal, but it won't stick around if you return to good habits. I set a five pound range around my goal weight. I've been below it once, above it once, but the rest of the time I've settled in this healthy range.
I still pre-log my days most of the time and eat at a slight deficit on work days. Lately, Saturdays are "fuel" day for my long runs on Sunday and I don't bother logging them; I definitely eat well above maintenance. Sundays I log but eat to my hunger, which might mean above, below, or at maintanenace. A slight deficit overall means that holidays, vacations, and two week jury trials fueled by Jimmy John's and Starbucks don't result in lasting weight gain. Calorie-counting is easy for me now and it works. Though I do not log religiously, I do log regularly and I believe that for me, it's important to maintenance.
I exercise, not to earn "exercise calories" but to earn health, satisfaction, and pride. I exercise because I love it. You won't find me reading a magazine on an elliptical for an hour; you'll find me training. I train because I get a lot of joy out of lifting more or running farther than I could last month. I don't exercise because I have to. I exercise because I get to.
This is a weird place to be in, honestly. I still feel like a fat person sometimes. I will take a size large into the dressing room with me thinking it looks like it will fit only to try it on and look like a girl in her dad's jacket. I'll forget that I simply take up less space than I used to. I sometimes feel out of place, like an outsider, in a new gym class, so it's unsettling when I get mistaken for the instructor. Strangers are nicer to me, and I feel this odd ambivalence about my own choice to leave the painful world of obesity to others who are still there. When I get too tired or stressed, I'll revert to those old, nasty habits that supported 300 pounds on me but are incompatible with this new version; I'll eat too much and sleep too little and start slip-sliding down a path I turned away from in June of 2011.
But those moments are short-lived, and my physical and mental reactions to those times leave no doubt in my mind: I am, simply, happier where I am than where I used to be. I choose to pack my lunch while others eat out because I feel better when I do. I exercise instead of watching TV because I enjoy it. When my work or family obligations require me to make different choices, I don't de-rail or let rigidity get in the way of life - I roll with it, and get everything back in order once I can.
I am not posting this to be smug, or to brag. I'm writing this because I'm just really astounded with who I have become. I know I'm going to have setbacks, but I also know that as long as I stick with the fundamentals of what got me to this place, I will stay here. This is my commitment.
Hitting my goal weight felt amazing.
Maintaining my weight loss, though, is something different altogether. There aren't the same big successes, the constant compliments, the new sizes. But settling into new habits that feel effortless? It's even better.
Here's to one year of this new normal, the first of many.
(This is the best "before" shot I could find; I wasn't so camera-happy back then, ha.)
Posted on 10/08/2013 by ShannonMpls
Let me tell you about the time in my life when I felt most beautiful, aside from my wedding day.
I was pampered like a star, starting in New York where a stylist came to my hotel room with oodles of clothes for me to try on and choose from (with my best buddy @lobsterrific, who brought the cocktails). Then I flew to LA and checked into the Beverly Hills Hotel in an enormous suite, all to myself, and I stayed up until 2am reading in the equally enormous bathtub. The next morning I ordered room service and two more stylists came up to do my hair and makeup. I put on my dress and jewelry, grabbed my handbag (all provided by someone else!), and headed downstairs to meet my entourage, who directed me to the red carpet I'd walk with cameras snapping.
In that ballroom, I sat next to the truly wonderful Kerry Washington. At the next table over, Katie Holmes and Suri Cruise sat. Amy Adams and Mark Wahlberg were nearby. The entire room was full of celebrities. Hollywood women were being honored that day for their philanthropic work.
Oh yeah, and I was being honored too.
After hearing speeches from Jennifer Garner and John Malkovich, the lovely Ms. Washington took the stage and said words about me so kind I teared up. I stood to deliver my speech, cheering myself on as I walked on stage ("You can do this, Shannon. You are not a celebrity. This crowd is expecting you to be horrible. Just be mediocre and they'll be impressed.")
I delivered my speech, using a teleprompter, having to stop mid-way for applause <!!!!>. I was quite grateful I couldn't see the audience because of the lights, because who can speak clearly when looking at Eva Mendes? It turns out that I wasn't mediocre; Kerry said I was great, one of the best.
After the event, I chatted with my fellow honorees - that's weird to say - Katie Holmes, Jennifer Garner, and Amy Adams. Then I got the shock of my life when Anne Hathaway came up to ME to introduce herself - "Hi, I'm Annie!" Later, Eva Mendes (is there anyone more stunning?) introduced herself to me too.
The day was a whirlwind, and I felt amazing and absolutely gorgeous and glamorous.
And I was probably at the heaviest weight of my life.
Here are some photos from the event.
On the red carpet:
Delivering my speech:
With all the honorees:
With the lovely Annie Hathaway:
Someone asked me a few weeks ago if I wish I could re-do that event now that I've lost so much weight. I actually find the question a little offensive. I was not there because of my body, I was there to speak about the nonprofit I founded. It was my work that mattered, not my appearance.
At the time, I did not care that I weighed 300 pounds and was twice as big as the other women who were honored. I did not care that the clothing the stylist brought for me was size 20. I felt beautiful. I *was* beautiful.
This is me now.
In my happy place:
Figured my "movie star" photo is appropriate for this post:
My body is pretty sweet. I can wear almost anything I want, and I never have problems finding cute things that fit. I can do really tremendous things. I squatted 155 today, and bench pressed 145 last week. I am not far from doing a real pull-up. I have run a 10 mile race. I can hike and bike and walk all day long.
What troubles me, and why I'm posting this, is a disturbing pattern of thoughts I've had for the past couple days. Laying on the couch the other night I was looking at my thighs and admiring the muscle definition in them. Leg day is paying off! But when I stand up, it's gone - you can't see it. The skin on my legs is not taut and those gorgeous muscles are obscured.
Shaving my legs sitting on the ledge of the bathtub this morning, I saw my calf muscle, strong and big and popping out. But it was just how I was sitting - normally my calves just look...fat.
My shoulders and upper arms are toned and I absolutely love them. But near my elbow, there is this little lip of fat that I don't like, that hangs a bit because of some loose skin.
I will never see ab definition; after a baby and huge weight loss, it's just not in the cards.
I want to be able to post, "but I don't care! I love my body and what it can do. Everything is perfect!" And truthfully, I usually do feel that way. I can normally focus on the awesome and accept the flaws.
But lately, that hasn't been the case. I have never - ever - been this picky about my body. I do not understand it, and it is not welcome.
I was never motivated to start losing weight by hatred of my body. It came from all kinds of places (perhaps most strongly boredom, and I'm not joking) but I did not hate myself.
So why am I now, when I'm at the healthiest I've been, when I fit in the smallest size I've ever worn, feeling this way toward my body? Has all this hyper-focus on fitness (something I love and brings me a lot of joy and discipline and accomplishment) changed my body image and my relationship with myself?
Why am I letting a desire to be strong and lean become license to criticize?
I hope this is passing, due to mood or heat or jealously at seeing girls wearing short shorts that I wish I could wear <well, I mean, I could wear them, I just wouldn't like how I looked>. It's not welcome. My goal is to be whole and healthy.
Perfection is not the end of this journey; it's strength and acceptance I'm seeking.
I'm not trying to lose weight anymore, but I'm not done yet either.
Posted on 7/18/2013 by ShannonMpls
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