I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions. They never work. But still, 2013 is going to be a year of better health for me. And I'm starting a simple new initiative today, February 1st.
But before I share the details, let me share my background.
I've struggled with my weight all my life. Both from a personal habits perspective (what and how I eat) and from a physiological perspective (I have the most stubborn body fat on the planet). I've also struggled with the fact of being fat, of course. In this cult of skinny that we live in, who wouldn't?
I am dead serious when I say my body fat is stubborn. It is, in fact, cemented to my bones. I've always been less jiggly than the average chubby person; mine is a very FIRM fat. And without even mentioning the fact that I have trained for and completed two half-marathons without losing a single ounce either time, here is further proof of the stubbornness:
Exhibit A: At age 25, I cut out all refined sugars and flour, eating strictly fruits, vegetables, proteins, dairy, and grains in their whole form (as in, no bread). I followed this eating plan 6 days a week, allowing myself a free day on Saturday. I ate weird things like brown rice with cottage cheese and tuna fish that I heated in the microwave, sprinkled with a bit of mozzarella cheese, which came to be known as "Angie's protein stir." My one daily indulgence was half a Luna bar or Balance bar. As for exercise, I did 60-minutes of spinning on M-W-Th, 60 minutes of weightlifting on Tuesdays, and 60 minutes of yoga on Fridays.
Results: I did not lose one single pound, nor seeminly one single inch, for a full 2 months. I'm talking 8 weeks (56 days) of Hurculean effort, with absolutely nothing to show for it. Finally, my fat cells got the message that I was serious, and after about 8 months, I had lost 22 pounds—the most I've ever lost in one sustained push. It felt like a miracle.
Exhibit B: In 2007, I buddied up with a friend and neighbor on a reduced calorie and exercise plan. We worked out together (as in the exact same workouts, done together at the local gym) and both followed a strict calorie plan that was scaled to our body weight and activity level, designed to result in a 2-pound weight loss per week. We both did this for an entire year. She started out about 45 pounds heavier than I was initially.
Results: She lost 50 pounds, nearly 1 pound a week or about 20 percent of her total body weight. I lost 15 pounds, a little over a pound a MONTH or about 8 percent of my total body weight. And it was a grueling year. (Granted: that year I was full-on into infertility treatments, so it's possible that I should feel grateful that I didn't GAIN 50 pounds from all the hormone volatility.)
These experiences, seen from my adult perspective, illustrate very clearly to me why it was so hard for me to stay committed to something for more than a week or two as a teenager. Already my hormones were raging and it was an angst-filled, turbulently emotional time full of self-image issues and feelings of absolute invisibility.
Add to that the fact that I would have had to stay committed to something for 2 straight months (when even a week feels like an eternity at that age) before I saw results, and it's no wonder I couldn't stay motivated. I never saw a single pound budge in a downward direction throughout all my teenage years, just a gradual creeping upward.
I was an average sized child in elementary school. And I literally doubled my weight between the 6th and 12th grades. I felt completely out of control of my own body.
Click image for larger view.
My weight gain was a mystery to me at the time. I didn't feel like I was eating more than I had the year before or the year before, but the pounds kept piling on. Exercise was another matter. I went from a very active, bicycle riding, softball- and soccer-playing child to a sedentary teenager. This is partly because all of my favorite hobbies (reading, playing the piano, singing, writing) involved sitting or at most standing—and partly because exercising in public became more and more embarrassing. I never wanted to be seen exercising, and I never was very successful at burning many calories from the comfort of my bedroom. There are only so many sit-ups a girl can do!
From age 18 to age 26, I managed to lose 70 pounds. Very, very, very gradually. And if there's one bright spot in all this (and I'll explain more about why tomorrow), I never yo-yo dieted. Or if I did, I yo'd up 125 pounds from age 12 to age 18 (some of which was due to growing taller, of course) and then yo'd back down 70 pounds by age 26. Always in a slow and steady trajectory.
I'm now 36, and in the last decade, I have regained 25 pounds from my all-time-low, with very little back-and-forth along the way (apart from that temporary 15-pound reprieve that lasted from 2007 to 2009 that I mentioned above). It seems that where I am now is my "resting" weight. This is where I stay unless I'm putting forth seriously focused, concentrated, and consistent effort.
But if you're counting, I'm still 45 pounds lighter than my heaviest weight ever, at age 18. Which is awesome. But less awesome when I remember that number used to be 70!
And this brings us to my latest "Healthy Habits" initiative, which came about because of a serendipitious turn of events that I'll share tomorrow.
One thing I've learned over the years is that I have never EVER lost weight on a deadline. Not ever. I have never been able to make a certain number of pounds the goal. If weight loss is the goal, whether I'm aiming for 2 or 20 pounds, the weight doesn't budge. The weight ONLY budges if my goal is to be healthier. That's it. In 2002, when I was 26, I set out to become stronger and faster and to fill my body with natural, heathful fuel. And the weight loss was a very welcome byproduct of that mentality.
And that is my goal again. To instill in myself healthy habits that will take me through the next decade and beyond.
p.s. I know I have better photos of my at my lowest weight and worse photos of me at my highest weight, but the scanner went out today, so I had to rely on photos I already had in digital form. As for my age 36 picture, I have almost no full-body pictures of myself wherein I'm not deliberately hiding behind someone or something else. Apparently, old habits die hard. The pics below were my only available runners up. As you can see, if there's a group shot, I'll fight to the death to be on the back row.