Little Earthquakes

If you’re on a weight loss or fitness journey and are part of any sort of online support, you’ve heard – well, actually you’ve seen – the term “NSV.”  A non-scale victory is any positive change you’ve noticed that doesn’t directly relate to the scale.  It can be a dress fitting better, zipping up that old pair of jeans you couldn’t squeeze into a month ago, a compliment from a co-worker.  It can be making good food choices at a barbecue, drinking all the water, staying away from fast food, throwing away the Halloween candy – anything that doesn’t involve that dirty rotten liar of a scale.

Because the scale can be a bitch.  I don’t own one, and I’ve said before that I truly don’t believe I would have continued this healthy lifestyle, wouldn’t have made it a lifestyle, in fact, if I’d been weighing myself from the beginning. I stand by that statement.  For women, at least – I’m not a man and my husband subsists on pizza and tacos yet maintains a steady weight of 143 so he’s no help, and yes, that is fucking infuriating, thank you – the scale is designed to beat us.  It’s counterproductive.  When I did Weight Watchers successfully, I lost somewhere between two and four pounds a month.  Which is great. But here’s the thing – it took me months to realize I was actually losing consistently.  I pulled out my old book just for shits and giggles and took a look at my stats over the course of a month.  After I regained consciousness at realizing how much heavier I was now than my starting point ten years ago – it’s totally normal to gain sixty pounds even though you haven’t had kids, right? – I still had to take another look at the numbers.

The first week, I was down one pound.  The second, I had gained four.  The third?  Down seven.  Then the fourth, back up three pounds.  So for the entire month, I lost a grand total of one pound.  But I rejoiced at the seven pound loss, despaired at the gains.  I changed things around every week based on what the scale said.  When I had lost, I tried to keep doing what I was doing, but could rationalize that extra low-fat chip or bite of pizza.  When I gained, I not only beat myself up, but tried to cut calories more, which resulted in the inevitable “I’ve been good all week I deserve a cheeseburger,” meal.  Rationalization is never a good thing, and the scale makes you rationalize both good AND bad, which is super counterproductive.  And when your hormone levels and cycle can give you up to a ten pound swing like mine does two weeks out of the month, there’s no way to beat it.

So I only weigh myself occasionally.  As I don’t belong to a gym, my number on the scale isn’t very definitive; I weigh myself every couple of weeks or so, when I happen to be at someone else’s house.  So it’s even more of a swing; different time of the month, different clothes, different scales, the whole thing.  The overall trend, however, is consistently down, other than one time when I weighed at two different places within a week.

All of that being said, however, I’m still human.  It’s not like I’ve become some person completely immune to wanting to be near my high school weight, and I do get discouraged occasionally – usually right after one of those scale encounters – because with all of the changes I’ve made, I feel like it should be more.  This feeling is exacerbated because this time around, I really am doing the right thing, I really have made this a lifestyle as opposed to a diet.  I don’t count calories, I don’t count points, I don’t even really count carbs.  I eat a lot of the same things, so I have a general idea of where I’m at, and if I make something new, I run it through MyFitnessPal just to make sure I’m not way off on the nutritional info.  (Sidenote?  It is astounding how much food knowledge I have acquired.  Apparently actively trying to lose weight for your entire life does have some advantages.)  I eat about 90% clean and allow for a little wiggle room and the occasional treat, but for the most part?  I’m healthy as fuck.

So after weighing in at my parents’ over the weekend, I was a little disappointed to see no change from the week before.  It’s been almost six months – with all of the changes I’ve made, how have I only lost 15 pounds?  And right here?  Is where the NSV’s come in.

At this time last year, a Sunday might look like this: Get up around nine or ten, either eat a plate full of some delicious, macaroni-and-cheese-based leftovers or head to McDonald’s for my favorite, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese meal – large, naturally – and lay down on the couch.  This was ostensibly to watch a movie or some TV, but within a half hour, it was a nap that might last until noon or one.  It’s Sunday, right?  Day of rest and all that.  Then we would sit outside and maybe barbecue, have some beers, and I would spend a good portion of the time hoping that no one suggested going anywhere because it was so hard for me to walk.  (I also suffered from self-diagnosed plantar fasciitis, which has since disappeared.)  If we needed anything from the store, I would beg and barter with my husband and friend to go so I didn’t have to, because it took me so long to walk there and back and carrying anything more than myself up our stairs exhausted me.  Then I’d eat a big old dinner – baked potato soup being my favorite – and immediately fall asleep.  This was normal.

Can I tell you about this past Sunday?  This past Sunday, I woke up at eight.  I brushed my teeth and washed my face, grabbed my backpack and keys, and headed out on my bike.  I rode three miles to the beachfront, then biked the lakefront path another two or three miles before realizing that the gale force winds that were making my ride enjoyable were going to make it equally unenjoyable on the way back.  I turned around and the wind was so strong I could barely make the pedals move, but I powered through and rode all the way back.  (It sucked. So much.) Then when I got home, I made myself a protein shake and headed back out on the bike to the store.  Did I mention I live on the second floor and have to haul the bike up and down the stairs?  In the past, that alone would have made me not willing to go anywhere.  Sunday, I not only carried mine up and down twice, but – for reasons too stupid to explain here – had to haul my buddy’s bike up the stairs as well.  His bike is approximately as big as me and is apparently made of solid steel.  I’m pretty sure it weighs at least a ton.  In the afternoon, we went to a festival, and while I certainly indulged a bit, I did it while standing, never once having to sit down and never once having to ask everyone to slow down walking because I couldn’t keep up.  I was so happy.

It’s these everyday things that make me realize how far I’ve come.  Not a number on the scale.  If I could magically be at my “goal weight,” but have to eat and feel the way I did last year, I wouldn’t do it.   And that? Is the biggest victory of all.

Except these pictures.  These help too.

Christmas, 2013

Christmas, 2013

Tonight, after a workout that kicked my ass

Tonight, after a workout that kicked my ass. Also? I could barely get that shirt over my head last year when my sister brought it home from Italy for me.

 

 

 

 

 

This Is What Three Pounds Looks Like

*****I wrote this on April 4th of this year and posted it to my main blog, crazinessiscontagious.com.  I’m starting this blog with this particular post because I think it is so important to concentrate on how you feel, how you look, and all of the positive changes you are making rather than a number on a scale.    The number does not matter.  The night I wrote this was the first night I really thought, “You know what?  I am going to do this.  I’m going to do this in a healthy way, for me, and not for some stupid number on a scale.”  And I am doing it.  This is just where it started.

April 4, 2014

It was the Christmas pictures that did it.  There was my beautiful sister, almost seven months pregnant with her first child, looking radiant standing next to me – fifty pounds (at least, I didn’t ask.  I have to maintain some sanity,) heavier than her, looking like a distorted, bloated version of myself.  What struck me the most wasn’t how heavy I was; it’s not like I hadn’t realized my pants were getting too tight and I got out of breath trying to put my boots on.  I knew I’d put on a considerable amount of weight.  But what struck me the most was how unhappy I looked.  I didn’t look like me.  The me I knew was happy, she wasn’t this puffy person desperately trying to smile.

Once I had untagged myself from all of those unflattering pictures, I made a decision.  I didn’t want to be that person.  I did not want to be the person that did not want her picture taken.  I wanted my as-yet-unborn niece to have photos of her aunt that loved her, not just a vague recollection of a fat lady.  Those pictures snapped something in me and made me question what else I was missing out on.  I’m self-aware enough to realize if I was hiding out from the camera, I was hiding out from other things as well.  What else was I letting pass me by?

So I made some big changes.  I cut out the carbs and sugar, switched my six or seven  Diet Cokes a day for gallons of water.  I quit drinking beer.  (I switched to vodka and diet Sprite.  I’m not a saint.)  I ate vegetables.  Instead of my previous late night dinners of loaded baked potato soup, mashed potatoes, or spaghetti with a half a loaf of garlic bread, I made mashed cauliflower with chicken.  I made smoothies with spinach every morning, despite my previous disdain for anyone that would do such a horrible thing to a delicious beverage.  I found out I was wrong.  They were delicious.

And I started running.  I had quit smoking almost a year prior but still had the smoker mentality that went something along the lines of, “If I am running, you better start, because there someone behind me with a murderous weapon.”  I had never run.  Ever. I always got a C in gym class because I would never run the whole mile.  But I found this Couch to 5K program that boasted it would enable me to run a 5K within nine weeks.  I didn’t believe it for a second after the first day, when I damn near passed out after running for sixty seconds.  I signed up for one anyway.

The biggest thing I did, however, was not get on a scale.  I hadn’t had one in years, and I decided that instead of weight, I was going to concentrate on this 5K.  I set what I thought was a realistic goal: One, I was going to finish the program.  Two, I wanted to run the whole thing and finish under 45 minutes.  They weren’t lofty goals.  There are people that can walk a 5K in 45 minutes.  But they were my goals, and they weren’t directly related to a number on the scale.

I felt great.  Each day after I completed my run, I was exhilarated.  Every other day I was out there; in the bitter cold, in the snow, in the rain – I would run.  I couldn’t believe it – I was doing it!!!  After a couple of weeks, my clothes were fitting better.  I had more energy, I was smiling a real smile again – I was happy.  I was me again.  Most of all, I was so damn proud of myself.  I was achieving my weight loss goals like I never had before.

About eight weeks into the program, I was over at my sister’s for lunch.  I went to use her bathroom and spied the scale on the floor.  I couldn’t help myself.  I had to see.  I mean, it had been eight weeks!  After all of the changes I had made, at the weight I started, I was confident I had lost at least fifteen pounds.  I had done the low-carb thing before – the wrong way, with no exercise, subsisting on bacon and peanut butter – and lost eight pounds the first week.  So I was, for the first time I can remember, excited about getting on the scale. I kicked off my shoes and stepped on, eagerly looking down at the number.

That can’t be right.

THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT.

It is impossible that I have only lost three pounds.  After all, I’d been eating vegetables.  I got off and let it reset.  Clearly it was malfunctioning.  I got on again.

Damn. It.

In eight weeks, after letting nary a potato or beer cross my lips, after drinking gallons and gallons of water a day, after drinking spinach for breakfast, after increasing my endurance to being able to run a mile and a half at a stretch, after turning down Portillo’s four times, after throwing away the crust on the work-lunch Lou Malnati’s pizza, after eating all of this cauliflower – THREE POUNDS.

In short, I was devastated.  All of my hard work, all of my good feels, all of my pride and energy; it was like it had never happened.  According to that scale, all of my work was for basically nothing.  And the next thought that crossed my mind was, “Why even bother?  I might as well go back to macaroni and cheese for dinner!”

How. Stupid. Is. That?

I knew I’d lost inches.  My clothes fit better, I’d been getting compliments, the foot pain I’d struggled with for the past year was non-existent.  I was able to keep up when we went for a walk.  I was able to run a mile and a half, for Christ’s sake.  I was no longer sweating while trying to zip up my boots, in fact, I could fit my whole hand in between my leg and the top of them, whereas weeks before I could barely get them over my pants. My yoga pants were dragging on the floor even when I wore shoes.  I didn’t resemble John Goodman anymore.  I felt great.

Yet I was letting a number on a scale determine whether I had been successful. Somehow, none of those great things I’d been feeling mattered anymore, because the scale said they didn’t.  Anyone who has ever struggled with their weight knows that the scale rules all.  The scale has the final say.  The scale tells you whether you are doing well or badly.  And in the end, the scale will break you.

I can say with complete confidence that if I’d been weighing myself every day throughout those eight weeks, I would have quit about three weeks in.  No way would I have continued the running that has made me stronger, eating food that doesn’t require a nap after consuming it, drinking water instead of pop, because the scale would have told me I was failing.

So I’m very glad that I don’t own a scale.  Because if I did, I wouldn’t be wearing jeans two sizes lower than I was in January.  If I owned a scale, my smile would still look stretched and forced.  I wouldn’t be excited about the summer, looking for clothes and planning activities that I know I’ll be able to enjoy.  If I owned a scale, I sure as hell wouldn’t have run three straight miles yesterday.  I wouldn’t be looking forward to running a 5K next week – in fact, I’d be dreading it, because it would be another failure.  All because of a number that means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Throw away the scale.  Eat well, be healthy in whatever way works for you, and be happy.  Get your smile back and be proud of what you can do.

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This is three pounds.