Saturday, January 12, 2008

Full disclosure

I shun most (ahem) reality shows, as I feel they are as addictive and unhealthy as any drug. So it was a big decision for me to start watching the new season of “The Biggest Loser.” I don’t really know why I decided to watch; it just felt like a natural thing to do. I don’t regret that decision, because, let me tell ya, it’s been a kick in the pants. I’ve never walked in the shoes of these contestants, but I’ve been close. Too close.

May 2003: Weight 224 pounds. At a height of 5-feet-7, that translates to a body mass index of 35.1. Otherwise known as obese. My intentions to “do something” about those excess pounds meant little until I truly had an “enough is enough” moment. I join Gold’s Gym. Five mornings a week I lift weights and power through 45-60 minutes on the elliptical trainer. I clean up my eating habits a bit, too. 40 pounds slip off. At 184 pounds, my BMI is 28.8. Straddling the fine line between obese and overweight.

March 2004: I move away from the ‘burbs and the gym, to the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle. I use my apartment building’s gym sporadically, walk our golden retriever daily, and manage to keep off most of those 40 pounds (in spite of nine months in pastry school).

October 2006. In a moment of stupidity, I do a bang up job of breaking my left ankle in our house of six months. My orthopedic surgeon informs me that during my recovery (six weeks on crutches, then six more in a walking cast) I will gain weight and lose fitness. How ironic that I was once again “gearing up” to lose weight when my little accident occurred.

Losing fitness I couldn’t argue about (I mean, I couldn’t even MOVE much). But I was NOT going to gain a bunch of weight. My OS said that his patients think they will just eat less to compensate for their decreased physical activity but end up eating more…because they have nothing else to do.

At this point let me mention that my crutches and I did not get along. At all. During that six weeks, I only left the house for doctor’s appointments and for Thanksgiving (I telecommuted). I developed a revolving set of muscle and joint pains from hauling myself up and down the stairs (on my butt, mind you).

What a blessing in disguise. If you can’t cope with crutches, you really can’t cope with carrying anything while on crutches. Including food. That helped prevent my weight from ballooning. I also realized if I was having that hard of a time getting around, what would happen if a similar situation occurred 10 years down the road?

I believe now, more than ever, that most people won’t make a serious change in their life unless they hit some kind of rock bottom. My rock bottom came in two phases: 2003, and 2006, when I literally hit the bottom of the stairs!

I made a serious plan. I started eating better immediately (with help from J, since I wasn’t up to cooking). I began exercising as soon and as much as I could. I installed a basic home gym in the basement (well, J did the heavy lifting). I read diet and nutrition books to help build an eating plan designed for both health and weight loss. I studied up on the psychology of eating and weight loss. I was ready.

February 2007: Less than a month out of my walking cast, I buy a scale. 192 pounds. Back to obese. I clock the mileage on what I thought was a “long” walk. Just over two miles. Not long enough. Not even close. I decide to walk a half-marathon in November. I choose a training plan from Walking Magazine The Complete Guide To Walking: for Health, Fitness, and Weight Loss. My mileage increases weekly (peaking at 30 miles/week). I steadily lose weight (about 1.5 pounds per week average).

January 2008: I have been in the 143-145 range for the last three months. BMI of 22.6, mid-range in the “normal weight” category. My doctor tells me not to lose more weight (which I think is insane, but more on this later…)

The funny thing is that, for me, losing the weight wasn’t hard. Sure, sometimes it’s hard to find the time or motivation to exercise, sometimes it’s hard to say no to free office donuts. But I never starved myself, never worked out to the point of exhaustion. I never worked hard at the weight loss. I worked smart. I worked steadily. I wish I had done it sooner, but I don’t dwell on that, because this time I know it is for keeps. It’s not just about looking better in clothes. It’s about being as fit and healthy as I can possibly be.

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