I have not blogged for a couple of days for a couple of reasons:
1) I've been far too busy with yellow-vested men digging giant ravines in my driveway and making my house shake like the San Andreas vault, as well as trying to contend with cold showers left over from their gas line tampering and;
2) Perhaps the most prevalent reason: I have fallen from grace, having been a proverbial cyber poster child for Spark for a time, only to seriously mess up as soon as I crossed that border between Weight Loss Town and Maintenanceville. Writing any sort of weight-loss advice had me feeling too much like a hypocrite when the scales had me feeling like a hippo.
April 11 was a good day for me, as I finally hit my goal weight that morning, the long-sought 155 lbs., after about 2.3 years of trying. I was already celebrating another personal hurdle that day, so I tacked on my loss of 174 lbs. to the celebration. Sadly, after just a few days of dietary disregard, there was nothing to celebrate when I got on the scales a couple days ago and saw a dreadful 162.3, the heaviest I've been since just before my daddy's funeral in November of 2015. As a result, I've done a lot a soul-searching and bowl-searching, because I have to figure out how I'm gonna survive in the lifelong voyage that is maintenance. I haven't much experience being a thin/normal-sized person for any long period of time, so it's new territory to me, and I realize now that there are lessons I didn't learn during my weight-loss journey that will help me now, during lifelong maintenance.
LESSON ONE: DON'T YOU DARE COMPARE.
I do not like water, to drink or to get in (I saw JAWS and ORCA much too early in life). I wouldn't even touch the toxic green water at our local reservoir, and I don't know who would (it is an unnatural color and aroma that I am certain showed up at Home Simpson's workplace), but I have occasionally wandered onto a beach or poolside. Each and every time I go near the places where there are beach towels laid out, I have felt like Orca among all those Baywatch types, lying there with their silicone enhancements and perfectly tanned figures in their two-pricetags-and-a-bandaid teeny-weeny bikinis. It is not good for us large people to compare ourselves to smaller ones. Likewise, it is not good for us to compare ourselves with each other. My sister has the same biological makeup as I do (even though I did used to tease her that Mom found her under a rock and felt sorry for her and brought her home like a stray dog, since she's the only blonde in our family.) She has not had as an easy a time as I have losing weight, not this time around and not in our previous attempts, because she's got her own hurdles. My daughter was a teenager when she started this quest, so she had Mother Nature's growth hormones working against her; it is no easy feat to lose weight when you are still growing. Some of us have very active lifestyles and jobs, while there are those of us whose idea of aerobics is getting up to go to the bathroom or going on a political rant on Facebook (in my defense, that does get my heart rate up, and all the eye-rolls my verbal rants cause in my teenager burn between 2 and 4 calories for her, according to Dr. Google). Some people seem to lose 3 lbs. simply by existing, and others seem to gain 14 just by walking in the same block as a bakery. Some can lose weight with nary-a-stretch mark left behind, while others of us can no longer play hopscotch or tennis for fear of tripping over the things that now sag to the asphalt. We are all different, because our Creator is creative, and comparing yourself to anyone else will only illuminate what you perceive as the flaws in yourself. Don't compare yourself to anyone but the person who stepped on the scale the previous week, because you are really your only competition. God left the cloning to people, and look how we screwed up the sheep! You are you, and you are good enough and capable enough to be the best you you can be.
LESSON TWO: ONE SNOWFLAKE OF OOPS DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY RESULT IN AN AVALANCHE OF RUIN
Picture it (and I know you just all imagined me as an elderly Italian lady who gave birth to Bea Arthur): On a random Friday, you eat your 300-calorie breakfast of two medium eggs, Coffee (lay off my boyfriend, would ya!), a lite bun with butter spray, and a Carbmaster yogurt, and you head to the office with your snack apple and your Lean Pocket in your bag. You are rightfully proud of yourself. Then, lo and behold, just after lunch hour, when you are still at a comfortable 647 calories for the day, leaving plenty of room for dinner and a small evening munch of air-popped corn, that goof from the next cubicle walks in with a giant box full of frosted cookies, still warm from the oven of the local bakery. He announces that everyone is welcome to them, and he has the nerve to lay them down on the magazine table three feet from your printer. Everyone herds past your cubicle, enticing you to join them as they convene around the cookie box, and your nostrils and your willpower fail you. You recite that HIGHLANDER mantra to yourself: "There can be only one!" and you take a single frosted sin out of the box. As you try to delicately devour that cookie, you notice that the blonde from Advertising is standing there with two cookies on her plate, and you begin to think, "Hey, I've lost 40 lbs. and almost look as good as her already. If she can eat two and look like Secretary Barbie, surely I can get away with it as well." You snatch another cookie, eat it, wash it down with more Coffee, and head back to your cubicle. With a defeated sigh, wiping the crumbs from your face, you pull up the Spark app like a good little girl and log those cookies. Much to your dismay, you discover that they are 238 calories EACH! Just like that, you've ruined your day. So, what do you do? You head home that night, forego the nice 400-cal chicken and veggies dinner you planned, and instead eat the rest of a bag of pretzels, almost a whole half-gallon of diet ice cream, and even the whole roll of Butter Rum Lifesavers from your purse, the ones you carefully eat in church, 10 cals at a time, once a week, somewhere between the "Hallelujah" and the final "Amen." The day was ruined anyway, right? May as well get all the "bad food" out of the house at once. This is a poor mindset I struggle GREATLY with, and I know others struggle as well. Remember that every calorie over your daily allowance is a wasted calorie, with the potential to become a waisted calorie. If you eat 1,394 instead of your 1,200, that's not good. If you reason that because you ate 1,394, you should just go ahead and eat 3,280, that's not any better. Don't give up just because you messed up. Don't let a snowflake turn into an avalanche. Just plow through it and do better the next time.
LESSON THREE: NIGHTTIME IS NOT THE RIGHT TIME
When I first started dieting, I took that whole bit about not eating at night to heart--mostly. Since I am self-employed, working for people whose after-work hobby (writing) is my work, I have to flex my hours every now and then, so we don't eat dinner until 6:30 most nights, sometimes as late as 7. This has worked for us, in spite of all the cautions. When I first started on my weight-loss journey, I did very well to limit my insomnia-spawned snacking to 100 cals or less. The thing I ate most often, since I tend to crave salt, was Carl Buddig 90-cal meat packs, usually honey ham. I ate them so often that I began to refer to them as "nightly meat," and now everyone in my family calls them that. As of late, for the past few weeks, I've been failing to adhere to this rule, and I've seen the difference on the scale. Even on days when my calories fall within my 1,200 range, I've eaten many of those calories at night, nibbling on naughties. These snacksidents resulted in unfavorable weigh-ins and made weight loss difficult. Sometimes they were in the form of granola bars or sweet cereal, and other times, they were worse indiscretions, such as cheese, candy, and other evils. While I don't believe everyone has to stop all eating past 6 p.m., my weight journey has proven that eating at night is harmful to weight loss and maintenance, so avoid it when you can.
LESSON FOUR: THREE ABOVE OR TWO BELOW
The last couple weeks have been hard on me, and I'm known for being very hard on myself. When I posted a very honest status on Spark about my unfavorable scaling, many of you Sparkies had wonderfully encouraging things to say, as well as helpful advice to give. One such piece of practical advice for maintenance (the plus-side of which I believe would also apply to weight losers during times of celebrations and holidays) is to allow yourself a 5-lb. cushion: 3 lbs. above your goal weight or 2 lbs. below it. For me, this means I should stay in the range of 153 to 158 lbs. When I am not, I should make adjustments, such as eating a little more or going back to my 1,200-cal plan to bring it back down to this range. This allows you a bit of sanity, and it also keeps you from beating yourself up for every ounce gained. Many factors affect weight gain, and some have little to do with what we eat: Aunt Flo, stress, muscle gain, water retention, and many others. Allowing this cushion will allow me to enjoy my thinner self without constantly obsessing every time that scale jumps a little above 155.
LESSON FIVE: FINDERS KEEPERS
During my weight-loss journey, so many people had mistaken impressions about me. For starters, many claimed I lose weight easily. There is NOTHING easy about sticking to 1,100-1,200 calories when you love food as much as I do! There is NOTHING easy about losing weight when you are over 40, generally always VERY stressed out, seldom sleep more than 4 hours a night, hate drinking water, and spend 12 hours a day sitting on your couch. Another thing I heard often was something like this: "You must have the metabolism of a squirrel on crack." (Well, maybe they didn't add the "on crack" part, but you get the point.) To quote a recent commercial, "That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works!" People assumed these sorts of things about me, about how "lucky" I was, when I don't believe in luck at all; I consider it a blessing if anything, because I knew it took some divine intervention to combat my bovine ingestion (Yes, I have been known to eat like I have five stomachs)! This was very difficult for me to hear, because I knew how hard I was trying, at least most of the time. I knew what things I was turning down and how hard it was for me to turn them down. I slipped up a lot, and those in the social situations with me when I screwed up likely thought I did so all the time, but that was not the case; on the great majority of days, I stayed in my 1,200s range, and nothing about that was easy for a girl who loves processed things and doesn't enjoy growing or cooking more organic things. Many thought my weight came off fast, but 831 days is a long, long time, and that last 10 lbs. took months to peel off. This is why it is so upsetting that I've gained 7.3 since the day I hit my goal. I think back to 2003, when I lost 150-ish lbs. in just over a year and gained all of it back and then some within 9 months. The lesson here is that you need to realize that no weight loss is easy. It takes work, and you will gain weight far faster than you can lose it. Finders really are keepers when it comes to lbs., because you will keep those lbs. you find far longer than you want to. The best thing to do is to get rid of them for good and not find them again, and that is a lesson I'm working on as I move into maintenance--how not to be a finder or a keeper.
LESSON SIX: IT'S NOT THAT SLIPPERY
Some would say maintenance is a slippery slope, but here's the thing about the SSA (slippery slope argument, which is the official name of this theory): "The Slippery Slope is a fallacy in which a person asserts that some event must inevitably follow from another without any argument for the inevitability of the event in question." That's right, folks. It's a FALLACY. It is catastrophic thinking, chicken littling at its best. If you mess up and your weigh-in is not kind to you, it does not mean you are destined to fail. It only means you have to put on your cleats, turn around, and keep climbing upward. I have taken a major slide down my own hill this past week, feeling a bit panicked and confused and clueless and careless in maintenance, and I have not maintained. I have gained, but that gain only means I have some ground to make up; it does not mean I am doomed to plummet into those Size 28W jeans again, and I won't. Whether you are in the throes of loss or the scary terrain of maintenance, remember that the slope isn't that slippery. (I would tell you to put your big-girl panties on and get back in the game, but big-girl panties are what we're trying to avoid, right? It took me a long time to shrink out of mine!)
I have leapt off the wagon once again, and after being on the Spark pedestal for a time, with that story and all these humbling and flattering featured blogs and all your kind comments and a sudden influx of 750+ friends and followers (I don't think I've even known that many real people in my four and a half decades of real life, so I'm truly flattered!), I feel worse than Britney must have felt when she shaved her head and started acting nuts after all those big hits. For the record, I'm not going to shave my head (at this point, even the gray hairs are precious to me, because my grandma has to have hers teased up every Sunday just to avoid looking like Sinead O'Connor in church). What I am gonna do is keep using my Nutrition Tracker, remember that weight is harder to lose than to gain, climb back up that slippery slope, stop comparing myself to Barbie dolls and other losers, give myself the liberty of accepting that 158 lbs. is okay, and live the rest of my life as a thin/normal-sized person, which is a version of me that I'm just getting to know. Wherever you are in your journey, try to learn these lessons now, because I had to learn some of them the hard weigh!