Wednesday, April 22, 2015
I work really hard to stay positive and not put myself down, but that doesn't mean I don't have insecurities. I had a conversation with a spark friend that got me thinking, and I decided to write about it because I am probably not the only one who struggles with self-doubt.
There are times on sparks where I feel like such a fraud--a fraud because I project a positive face even when I'm struggling, a fraud because I give people encouragement and advice when I feel mired in the swamp of my own weight loss efforts. A fraud because when I joined sparks I weighed 172. And while I had periods of weight loss, mostly I have maintained or even gained, hitting an all time high of around 215. Part of that was changing scales--I gained 20 pounds just by changing from the Wii Fit to a real scale. Part of that was muscle mass, because I when I started down this journey I had very little muscle--especially in important areas like the core, and i have worked hard to build up my muscle strength. I know this because I gained 43 pounds since joining sparks but never went up in pant sizes; toward the end when I jumped from 200 to 215, my clothes got tight, so it wasn't all muscle, but 43 pounds of fat should have put me up several pant sizes.
I know that part of my struggle with weight loss is that I have been building a lot of muscle--I am so much stronger than I used to be. I can do so many things now that I couldn't do when I first joined sparks. My older spark friends might remember my preparing for a march of dimes walk 5 years ago in honor of a friend's friend--which I believe was a 4 mile walk (ended up being only 3 miles due to terrible weather) and not being sure I could walk that far. A couple of years later, I walked the Mackinac Bridge--a walk from end to end of about 5 miles. Since I started weight training, I can leg press about double what I used to be able to. I have seen gains in shoulder presses, triceps exercises, biceps, etc. (not quite as impressive, but still progress). I've worked hard at building up my core. I am fencing now, something I have wanted to do for almost 20 years but have been physically unable to since 2000. And as much as I would have loved to have pushed my self hard every week and see the pay off on the scale, I'd rather have the strength than the pounds lost on the scale, to be honest, because that strength and endurance I've been building up are letting me live and enjoy my life. I can do things I enjoy doing, like fencing, which I love. I can do things like go to museums, amusement parks, and zoos and walk them on my own two feet, not from a wheel chair. But that doesn't make it hard not to be discouraged when I work really hard and make sacrifices like passing on that doughnut I really want or drinking blah water rather than the soft drink I'd prefer, and yet *still* see gains on the scale.
I know part of my problem is that I really struggle with inflammation. It's not just my hip--it's also in my arms (elbows, wrists, hands) and probably my knees as well. I know from weighing in that a day that pushes myself physically--say fencing at an event all day--can easily result in an overnight gain of 5+ *pounds* of inflammation--inflammation that can take a week or two to recover from, more if I don't give my body enough time to recover. Which means that I'm constantly doing a tricky balancing act between pushing myself enough to make progress but not so much I need to rest to heal up.... tricky because the center of balance in that equation is a constantly moving target. Also, during a BLC round I work really hard to maintain at least 5 days of 20 minutes of exercise a day... which ends up often pushing myself a little harder than my body can handle, so that by the end of the round I'm in pain and inflamed and need to rest and let my body heal and catch up again before the next round.
And I know that a big part of my problem has been stress--not even stress eating, but pure stress. Stress causes the body to release a hormone called cortisol that, among other things, makes you crave carbohydrates (quick energy for that fight or flight you need to do), can increase appetite, and causes the body to store energy, particularly in the belly. I don't know how much it increased my appetite since stress also made my stomach hurt... a lot. I'm still paying for that, though that it's better. But at it's worst I could barely eat--I ate a lot of carbohydrates both for the energy but also because they settled my stomach (a lot of rice and toast in particular) and chicken and eggs. I couldn't handle fats, fruit, vegetables, or most proteins. I wasn't eating very much over all--and yet packed on the pounds like crazy.
Since I graduated (and moved 3 times in the following 6 months) we ate out a lot and even trying to make moderately healthy choices most of the time I know that I ate way more calories than I normally do, but I actually *lost* weight--the 15 pounds I gained when I was so stressed and barely eating.
So that's my background on sparks. When I lose weight, I lose it painfully slowly. And by painfully I mean *glacially.* Sparks says for a realistic weight loss, most people can expect to lose an average of 2 pounds a week. If you are close to maintenance weight, that rate might be reduced to 1 pound a week. Every BLC, I shoot for a very modest 0.5 pound a week weight loss--6 pounds in 12 weeks. Last round I lost a whomping 3 pounds, and that is one of my best rounds ever as far as weight loss goes.
So that is why I struggle sometimes with feeling like a fraud. I feel powerless sometimes when it comes to weight loss; I try so hard. I work out consistently, though at the moment I'm not pushing as hard because my body needs rest (still exercising, just at a more modest pace). I have largely cut the soft drinks from my diet (replaced with tea) and, again, *gained* weight--over 10 pounds. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and making an effort to eat whole grains and lean proteins. I'm not perfect. I know that. My diet and exercise regimes are modest compared to what many people do because I need them to be sustainable--sustainable with all the aspects of my life, which means sharing meals with my husband, listening to my body's limitations, and being realistic about what I can get done since I'm always really busy. But it's hard not to get discouraged when you make healthy choices and see the scale going up instead of down more often than not.
Being me, I do try to stay positive--I know I'm healthier than ever by almost every health measure *but* the scale. I'm stronger and have greater endurance. I also know that the muscle I'm building up is a good thing, and that the scale is lying to me--otherwise I'd be wearing around a size 26 now, not a 16. I've been told I "look" like I've lost weight. And that it's okay for me to give advice and encouragement because even though the scale doesn't show it I have learned a lot on this journey, mostly through trial and error. I project a positive face because I know that the only way to win this fight is by focusing on what I can do, and what I can control, rather than get trapped in the things I can't do and can't control. And that battle starts in my mind, and in what I chose to focus on when I write blogs and post on teams and spark pages. Staying positive is the first and biggest battle in the struggle for a healthier me.
But maybe the fact that I'm still here, and still trying, is my biggest reason I'm not a fraud. Because I'm still showing up and making the effort, no matter what the scale says.