Running to stand still – my 121 lb. weight loss journey

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At my heaviest at the Corporate Challenge a few years ago (I could only walk)

Last December, I was at my lowest point emotionally and highest point weight-wise. I could not run; I could barely walk. I literally did not want to live anymore. I am not being dramatic. I was tired of it all. Every breath, every move, every day was painful and humiliating. For some reason, I decided to try to get this under control one more time.  I vowed to do what I had to do to lose weight and to be able to run again. 

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Looking silly, but feeling so much better – Ugly Sweater 5k – November 2016

Flash forward 12 months. A whole year has passed. It has been a long, challenging journey. It was not easy. EVERY SINGLE DAY I wanted to go off plan. EVERY SINGLE DAY I dreaded eating healthy and working out. It has gotten easier, but it’s still a work in progress. I am not at goal weight yet, but I have lost 121 lbs with about 25 to go. I was able to start running again in June. I’ve run 6 races and even improved on my speed. I’ve learned a few things on my journey:

  1. Discomfort is part of the process – & that’s ok.
    There will be times you want to give up. There will be times when you want to throw in the towel. There will be times you’re tired, frustrated and hungry. I actually did not feel a lot of hunger – for me it was more an emptiness. This makes perfect sense, as I was/am a huge emotional eater. I still struggle with those tendencies.
  2. I am not a weight loss expert
    What works on my weight loss and running journey may not work for yours. I appreciate the advice and support. You don’t have to take everyone’s input – just be appreciative they cared enough to offer it.
  3. The quick fix is NEVER going to work
    I cringe when I see people drastically cut calories and do fad diets. This is not my first rodeo. From experience, I know that in the long term that kind of plan is just going to backfire.
  4. Progress not perfection
    This one is the hardest for me. I am what I like to call a “failed perfectionist.” I like things to be perfect. I’m the kind of student who wanted to get all A’s and never let anyone down. If I went off plan with my food, I would just crumble, beat myself up and head into a binge. I had 4 BAD binge days this year. This is my main obstacle.
  5. Tap into your competitive spirit
    My main competition is myself. At the same time, I still pit myself against others – like the contestants on the Biggest Loser. I am not a fan of the starvation diet and 8 hour workouts they put them through (or the humiliating challenges). Yet, it really helped motivate me to see if I could lose weight EVERY week – knowing that those contestants did not. They may lose faster (and in my view in a more unhealthy manner), but I could get the same results – it will just take longer.
  6. There is no end game
    6 years was my previous record for keeping the weight off. The odds are NOT in my favor. I’m a lifelong yo yo dieter and former teenage anorexic (not bulimic – there is a difference) who already has a compromised metabolism with thyroid issues. In addition, I work a sedentary job. I will always have to be vigilant and  exercise more and watch what I eat more than people who have never had a weight issue. I either accept that and do what I can to counteract that reality or gain the weight back. It’s that simple.
  7. Be accountable and respect the scale, but focus on fitness too
    When I stopped weighing myself, I gained tons of weight. I was in complete denial. I need that weekly weigh in to hold myself accountable. At the same time, my only goal is not to just fit into a certain size or weigh a certain amount. While those are among my goals, I also want to be fit and healthy. I want healthy cholesterol and triglyceride numbers (which I now have – woot woot!!). I want to be able to go up stairs without getting winded, outrun people at races if I can and just feel like a normal, healthy person. I want energy. I also don’t want to be ashamed, mistreated or discriminated against due to my size. And yes, that does and did happen.
  8. Give yourself NSVs (Non Scale Victories)
    When you stick to plan and don’t lose, it can be devastating. Look for other accomplishments. For me, it was fitting into a chair I weighed too much to sit in. That chair now has room to spare. It was also when I went in for a physical (after losing 40 lbs) and my doctor thought I had a weight loss surgery procedure. It was when I fit into pants I saved from my thinner days.
  9. I’m not an inspiration
    Many kind people compliment you when you lose weight. I am grateful for their support. The truth is  – the people who inspire me are the people who did not gain and lose all the weight numerous times like I did in the first place. But, that’s the thing about addiction. Some are more prone to their demons than others. Mine is food and emotional eating. You can’t hide being overweight. The best I can do is try to control the addiction.
  10. Habits and mantras help
    I would say the hardest part for me this year keeping on plan was the emotional aspect. I am not one for positive self talk, so motivating myself to work out and adopt a new healthy eating plan for life was hard. Setting guidelines and creating a new, non destructive inner dialogue helped. I constantly told myself – “You have to do this – you HAVE TO work out on lunch and immediately after work. If your schedule changes or something comes up, then you work out BEFORE work. You have to track every single thing you eat. You HAVE TO stick to plan. There are no compromises. There are no days off.”

    You either want to lose this weight and move on with your life or you don’t.

  11. I had to declutter my life too
    When I lost 100 lbs before (yes, 3x now- sigh), my house still had too much stuff. I felt overwhelmed with material things. It didn’t help that I once worked for a catalog company where I could get cheap crap I did not need. As I started purging all the extra stuff, I felt like a weight had lifted. I donated car load after car load of items. For me, I needed to let go of that clutter that was weighing me down. It changed my mindset to looking for experiences (like travel, hiking, etc.) instead of shopping or the next thing to buy/collect.
  12. Be prepared for bad days
    Motivation wanes and is not enough! Days when I had not slept were tough. There were many of those, as I am an insomniac. Days when temperatures dipped below zero (I despise winter and have a circulation issue called Raynauds) were tough. When we got 17 inches of snow in one day and I had to dig myself out of my driveway and still go and exercise – that was hard. When I got in a car accident, when I had a bad/stressful day at work, when I had to avoid treats, restaurants and delicious food when others were pigging out  – those things were tough. But, all of that builds up your resolve and determination.
  13. Get a support system & don’t let “I have no time” be an excuse
    Even if you have kids, a spouse or a significant other, you can still do this. Believe me, I know all about excuses. Bust through them!! My support system were my friends and coworkers. I know it can be hard if you live with someone without a weight issue or if you have a big family. As a single person, I DO have more time to focus on this than others. But, that does not mean I want to do any of this. Take that time you spend on social media or watching TV to work out. You can still watch TV – just work out while your show is on. You can fit in exercise. I ran in hotel gyms at 4:30 in the morning on no sleep at over 200 lbs  – next to skinny people. It can be done – it’s just a matter of planning, preparation and wanting it very badly.

I know that this is not a running focused post. But, running was a huge part of my journey. Having running goals helps. The thinner I am, the faster and longer I can run. I don’t have huge running goals for the new year. I just want to get to my goal weight, keep running and be the healthiest person I can be. I turn 50 this year – the best gift would be to feel good about where I am weight and fitness wise.

My plan (in case you’re curious – since I do get asked)
Diet: 1300 calories tracked in the LoseIt app, Upped to 1400 or 1500 on a few days.
Food – healthy -fruits, veggies, lean proteins with treats as needed (hershey kiss, lollypop), healthy carbs, limited sugars. Goal was to eat less processed foods. This was not a low carb or low fat plan though. No fake diet crap foods! I am allowed to eat whatever I want. But, it ended up being healthy choices to maximize the calories I had.
Exercise: Twice daily. Exercise to a drenched sweat – get the heart rate up. Nothing wimpy – make it count! If I was going to take the time to get into my exercise togs, get to the gym and sacrifice every lunch break and work out at night immediately upon my arrival home (when I just wanted to wind down & eat dinner), you can bet I was going to make it count. At first, I could only do step tapes and walk vigorously. I worked my way up to running on the treadmill and outside. I supplemented this with exercise classes and online workouts (Jillian Michaels shred, kickboxing), jump rope, trampoline, situps and weights (2017 will be more strength training and toning in addition to cardio). While you can lose weight without exercise, it definitely helped speed up the process. And, I don’t want to be skinny fat. I want to be strong and fit! I currently run over 5 miles a day.
Rules: No eating after 7 pm (unless a special event – the kitchen is CLOSED). Very limited eating out at restaurants. Vacations don’t equal a free for all. Stick to plan AND exercise. Bring healthy snacks with you at all times. Limited visits to Wegmans – this grocery store is temptation/trigger central for me. I went to a less tempting store for 90% of my shopping. No (or limited) alcohol – don’t drink your calories. This one was easy for me, but I think a lot of people could drop weight quickly if they gave up that nightly beer or wine.
Weigh in: weekly – I kept track of weekly and monthly losses. I lost every week but one.
Fitbit: I got one in February. Getting steps is an admirable goal, but I did not fixate on this since some activities did not result in steps (spinning, etc.). Started by getting 10k a day. I average about 16k+ now.
Results: Started 1/1/16. Lost 121.2 lbs (average of 2.33 lbs a week). Exercised 363 out of 365 days. Stuck to food plan 361 out of 365 days.  44% of body weight lost.

Thank you for reading and good luck to you this year on your own fitness, weight and running journey! See below for before/after slideshow.

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