how I learned to love the elliptical and eat chocolate every day

elliptical1I work out every day. Every. Damn. Day. Some people love to exercise. I’m not one of those people. But despite my dread, I push myself to it anyhow, because I know it makes me stronger, gets my metabolism moving, and it allows me to eat a Reese’s in peace.

In the summer, I swim — great for you all around, and better for my back  — but in this long, bleak, frozen winter of our discontent, I’m forced into the gym. I use the bike a lot, and I’ve recently started getting used to the elliptical. Mind you, the first time I climbed onto that medieval torture device, after 30 seconds I wanted to confess to being a heretic so I could burn at the stake instead. But after a few more tries I got the hang of it and I’m building up to spending half my work out that way.

This isn’t my first time to the rodeo. I’ve done this before. But I think I didn’t keep it off because I hadn’t learned moderation. I got in the low-cal zone and I denied myself *everything*, and when I was done (there’s a mistake right there) and fell off the wagon, I fell big time. I don’t want that to happen again, so I’m being more reasonable with myself this time. If we constantly deny ourselves, we’re guaranteeing that we’ll eventually fail. Because you’re never “done”. It’s never over. Since this is it for the rest of my life, I need eat responsibly but not miserably if I’m going to succeed.

There are a lot of people who’ll tell you you’re doing it wrong, this way. I use MyFitnessPal and it’s a great app, but I don’t spend a lot of time in the discussion forums. It can be kind of crazypants judgy in there. “Hey look at me” syndrome is alive and well in weight loss communities. Look at how fast I’m losing, look at how under calorie goal I am, look at me, look at me, look at me. You can get an inferiority complex really easily. Just remember, it’s not a race. Or if it is, it’s one the tortoise is going to win in the end, not the hare.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I do, and what works for me. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s not all that hard, either, once you set your mind to it:

Count all your calories. All of them. It’s boring, by the way, just so you know. Tedious. But do it. Exercise often. Also potentially tedious. Try podcasts, or audiobooks, or Netflix. Eat lots of veggies and fiber but eat the things you like, too, just in moderation. A Hershey’s kiss has 22 calories — if you need a sweet treat, just have a couple of those. Be kind to yourself. Don’t get on the scale too often (too bad I don’t listen to my own advice on that one). The number will go down, over a period of time, but not all at once. And give yourself a day off, now and then, and enjoy yourself. Enjoy food, enjoy a break from vigilance. Then rinse, reuse, and repeat.

here I go again

funny-scaleOnce upon a time, I decided to lose some weight. I started counting calories, I started exercising. I was tenacious. And it worked. I lost 108 pounds, and it felt terrific. And… I’ve gained it all back. Every single pound, and then some.

What happened? Well, a lot of things. The first answer, and we’ll come back to this: I ate too much. I also stopped exercising, and that, to be fair, wasn’t my fault. After I hurt my back, and then the surgery that followed, the sciatic pain in my leg took away the walking I loved. Outside on Amherst’s bike paths, my mix going on my iPod shuffle, walking sneakers on, workout clothes always with me, I loved to walk. A lot. The treadmill will do in the winter, but walking those paths, or the ones at the museum, that was fulfilling. Sometimes joyous. But it’s not a real possibility now. My leg muscles are tired and weak, and the pain recurs too often and too strongly. So this time I’m focusing on swimming. I’ve never been a great swimmer — I taught myself when I was 11 or so, and I’ve never learned to swim underwater (long story). But I can swim laps, and I can exercise in the pool, and it’s the best thing possible for my back.

But back to the eating too much part. Well, that was all me. Why? I don’t know, why does anyone eat too much? I wanted to, for one. I was home a lot more. I had time on my hands. I like food. It tastes good. I like a big comfy meal that makes me feel warm and fuzzy and full. I like salty things and cheesy things and ice cream. A lot of people do. I like them too much — a lot of people do that too.

I was also happy. I met this guy, as you know, and that worked out pretty well for me. 🙂 And then you’re a couple and you’re going out to eat, and you’re sharing desserts, and you’re happy. I felt loved, and okay, and for the first time in forever, not so insecure. I’m lovable! I’m great the way I am! And there’s some value in just loving who you are and accepting it and so forth. But there’s a line somewhere that I crossed, and now I don’t love who I am. My clothes don’t fit. I don’t fit. I don’t like myself this way. So it’s time to do something about it, again.

For unrelated reasons, I’ve been tested six ways to Sunday by a veritable crew of doctors in the past few months. Enough bloodwork to satisfy a hungry vampire’s thirst. Ultrasounds and sonograms, some of them mighty uncomfortable. A couple of specialists. The upside of all of that is that apparently I’m actually pretty freaking healthy. I get nice numbers on everything, except for an underactive thyroid (and while yes, it’s true, that ain’t helpin’ the number on the scale go down, studies have shown that weight gain due to hypothyroidism is mild — in the 5-20 range, and I got a lot more than that to lose so I’m not hiding behind that). And we’re addressing that with medicine, so here I am, healthy as the proverbial horse, but just overweight. Again.

There were a few false starts this spring — I tried a couple of other diets, but none of them did much for me. And then, after another dismal rendezvous with my friend the scale, I finally conceded that I have to go back to what worked before, and will again, no matter how tedious. Calories, calories, counting calories. I started using MyFitnessPal, and I like it. Since I began last Sunday, I’ve lost 5.2 pounds — as an experienced dieter I know that’s just the initial water-weight jump, but it’s still nice to see that number on the scale going in the right direction.

So, here I go again. Wish me luck. 🙂

Created by MyFitnessPal – Free Calorie Counter