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Confessions of a Former Skinny Girl: AKA Lessons in What Not To Do

Thursday, March 11, 2010

When I was younger, I was one of those girls/women that I know many of you hate--the kind who could eat just about anything and never seem to put on any weight. I didn't watch what I ate. I didn't consider myself especially active, though in retrospect I was more active than I had realized--I enjoyed biking and rollerblading and swimming and canoeing in the summer and ice skating and sledding in the winter and long walks year round. But my favorite pastime were reading and writing, and I'd spend hours on end with a book or in front of the computer. I did have the advantage of enjoying vegetables and having a mother who cooked pretty healthy meals as a general rule, and we didn't eat as much fast food as many families do, especially these days. But mostly I was just blessed--or cursed, in a way--with a really high metabolism. When I was 6, I remember eating two Whoppers, fries, and a brownie because I was still hungry. And I was underweight for my height, causing my doctor to ask my parents if I ate. My poor parents! It's a wonder they could afford to feed my brother and me---he had an even bigger appetite than I did (and even today he's as skinny as a bean pole.)

Unfortunately, I screwed up my metabolism badly when I was in graduate school, not because I was dieting to lose weight but because I couldn't afford both food and my medications and my medical bills for the carpal tunnel. I ate very cheaply, and that meant that I ate a lot of grains and processed foods that were high in salt, but limited amounts of meat and few vegetables and fruit. Even with my soft drink consumption, I was probably only eating about 1200 calories a day--and yet very active, because living on or near campus meant a lot of walking every day. I also have a tendency to forget to eat when I'm working, and in grad school I was working all the time, so it wasn't uncommon for me to completely forget to eat until it was 4 pm or even later. The combination was not only very unhealthy and led to unstable blood sugar issues, but it taught my body that food was scarce and unpredictable.

When we got married, with my husband's income I could afford to eat more normally, but with his food allergies are joint meals tend to be heavy in starches (rice or pasta, usually) and meat. My calorie consumption bumped up to about 1400 calories a day, but I actually assumed that I was eating like a "typical" American, so closer to 2000 calories. I also assumed I was eating too much salt, fat and protein. In retrospect, I was eating too much salt, about the right amount of fat, and no where near enough protein. Because of my hip injury, my physical activity plummeted. So even though I wasn't actually eating that much food, I put on weight very rapidly--almost 60 lbs in 4 years.

And I knew that was incredibly unhealthy, but I didn't know what to do about it. I tried making more healthy food choices, but my weight continued to sky rocket up. Because of my bad hip, my physical activity was limited. I was doing my physical therapy, but the process was slow and in the meantime, it wasn't helping me stop the weight gain, let alone lose the weight.

It wasn't until I joined Sparks that I realized how skewed my perceptions of food were. Most people are shocked by how many calories they are really eating when they start tracking them; I was shocked by how few calories I was actually getting, and especially that I wasn't getting anywhere near enough protein. By then, though, the damage was done. Even though I'm watching what I eat most of the time and working out a lot, I've lost weight with glacial slowness. It's tempting sometimes to really bump up the exercise or further restrict calories, just to see more progress, but I'm afraid that will only making it worse in the long run. The only thing I can do now is to watch what I eat and exercise regularly and hope that by doing so that I can jump start my metabolism again. I don't expect a return to my youthful metabolism--I'm not sure I'd want it even if I could--but I would like to be able to lose this extra weight and keep it off without starving myself.

I worry now when I see friends--both on sparks and off it--who fast or radically restrict their calories in order to lose weight quickly. I have a friend (off sparks) who was drinking green tea to suppress her appetite and only eating about 900 calories a day--far, far too low for a healthy woman, and she's incredibly active. She should be eating, at a guess, more like 1500-1600 calories a day to maintain her lifestyle. Eating only 900 calories isn't healthy at all and I don't want to see anyone screw up their metabolism the way I screwed up mine.
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  • KOMAL53
    Like you I too was a discredit to my parents---I looked totally starved with hollow cheeks and the bones sticking out of me at odd angles!!!I ruined my metabolism through my laziness---I used to be alone at home through the day---8a.m. till 5p.m.---- till my daughters came home from school.I'd finish all the housework and read the books during the afternoon drinking a glass of Milk for lunch---I hated eating alone!!!Therefore my meals were heavy dinners at night and so so breakfasts in the mornings.Before I knew it I was a 100kgs and growing!!!Mistakes I regret today but at least we've learnt our lesson and are TRYING to regain a bit of Healthy lifestyle back!!!!
    3961 days ago
  • RAIN454
    Great blog, Zanna!! I think slow and steady certainly DOES win the race and you will definitely reach your goals! :)
    P.S. You were the "girl" I loved to hate! :)
    3962 days ago
  • SAASHA17
    wow...didnt know this about u:)..well i ahve noticed this in my dad wud always compare my mom to her and keep saying look at her...but u know now my aunt is way heavier than my mom and less fit too..My mom has amazing stamin and fitness but her age doesnt allow her to lose weight as much and she being a vegetarian and not really into watching carbs and proteins, her intake is way over in carbs and less in proteins but its all healthy food...

    I think its all about balance and being skinny is not better than being heavy when what ur eating is not healthy...

    I was reading this book by TOm Venuto " burn the fat feed the muscle" says body fat% determines a person..many skinny people have high he terms them as "skinny fat people" sense...haan

    3962 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/5/2010 7:32:18 PM
  • 4CYNDI
    This is a fantastic blog on lifestyle choices and their consequences. I know what you are talking about regarding the glacial slowness. I also have a metabolism that is very slow. I am if not content with the quickness of the weight loss, I have at least accepted it. I consider it a victory if at the end of a year I have dropped a pound or two. No it is not fast, and it is frustrating at times, but it is reality for me. The one thing I've found though with this slow progress is that I am able to keep off what is gone. I don't have to worry so much about it all creeping back on. I have a system in place that keeps me on track and moving.

    Keep up the great work and make each decision the best one possible!
    3966 days ago
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