Dealing with disappointment

I think I pretty much have to face facts:  this week was not a productive week.  Oh, sure, there were extenuating circumstances.  But at the end of the day, I still haven’t hit my calorie budget or exercise goals for three of the last five days.  As a result, I’m probably breaking even.  Maybe even gaining a little.  Clearly, I hope I’m wrong.  But I don’t think so.  Which leads to an important question, one which everyone on this sort of journey has to face.

How do you deal with it?

Clearly, if I’ve regained some weight, I’ll be upset.  If things go really bad, and I’ve gained enough back to go back over 300 lbs, I’ll be really upset – that was a huge milestone for me, and it isn’t one I want to lose out on.  So, if this worst case scenario happens, how will I cope?

Well, simply put, I’ll cope by remembering that this is a process.  That I’ve made enormous progress in the year since I started, and that a small setback isn’t the end of the world.  I’ll cope by remembering that my plan works, and that by living within my calorie budget and exercising I can do this.  And I’ll cope by remembering all of the wonderful people in my life that are rooting for me, and all of the reasons that I have for wanting to succeed.  Then I’ll stop whining, and get back to work.  Because I’m changing my life, not going on a diet.  Setbacks are temporary.

Still, I hope you all won’t be offended if I say I really hope I’m wrong about what will happen when I weigh in.  I’d rather not have the setback, thank you very much.  Wish me luck!

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For want of a nail…

Things really did not go well for me, yesterday.  I missed my exercise goal, my walking goal, and my calorie goal.  All because of a cascading series of problems.

It all started with trying to pick up my son from preschool, so I could go to the dentist.  The road that leads to my house was backed up, and I saw cop cars in the distance.  So I turned around and went an alternate way – only to discover that the other end of the road was also closed.  By police cars.  Which, as you might imagine, was disconcerting.

In the end, I had to park at a nearby church and walk half a mile to go pick up my son.  While I’m there, though, the preschool mentions that their power was out – something I hadn’t noticed, because I simply assumed that the lights were off because it was nap time for the younger children.  I didn’t give it too much thought, though, because I had to get back to my car and get to the dentist (which I managed).

After the appointment, my wife calls me.  It turns out that the power is out for our condo complex as well, because three or four utility poles were down.  How, I don’t know.  But it gets better, she tells me – it may be midnight before they get the electricity back on.  So she’s made arrangements for our son to stay the night at grandma’s house, because we don’t want to have him sleeping in a building without air conditioning while it is swelteringly hot out.  So I run him over, and then arrange to meet my wife for dinner.

I also run through a drive through.  Because it’s about 5 o’clock, and I ate lunch at 10 am.  I try to keep it small, but I’m hungry.  And then I meet my wife for dinner, and then we go see a movie.  Because the power isn’t on yet.  It made a pleasant excuse for an impromptu date night.

Finally, about 9:30, we make it home.  The power is back on (yay)!  But at this point I’ve blown through my calorie budget, and there’s no way I’m going to go and wrap up my last half mile walking and then do half an hour of exercises.  Not when I have to be up in five hours.  Instead, I collapse into bed and fall asleep.

So I missed all of my goals.  All because of some utility poles.

That was kind of neat

So I’m cleaning out my side of the dresser yesterday, and I come across an old belt I forgot I had.  It was just tucked away in the back corner of a drawer, coiled up and probably untouched for six years.  Brown leather, a little shiny, and clearly never worn.  That didn’t surprise me – for no specific reason I could tell you, I just don’t like brown belts.  After a little thought, I decided “what the heck” and put it on.

I couldn’t buckle it.  There was about a foot, maybe even 18 inches, of belt sticking out of the buckle.  I’d have had to drill a new hole way down the length of the belt to buckle it, and it would have wrapped around and touched my left back pocket.

Needless to say, I felt pretty good about that.  It’s one thing, after all, to know I’ve lost weight and inches.  It’s another thing entirely to see it so clearly.

Man it’s hot out

Crazy hot. Technically it’s only in the 90s, but the humidity puts the heat index over 110. It’s hot, is what I’m saying. Stupid hot.

So, naturally, I went out in it yesterday to get my last mile of my walking goal in. Why?  Maybe because stupid heat is for stupid people?

Nah, that’s not it.  Quite seriously, once I got going, I didn’t really pay attention to the heat. Not until I got home, with my t-shirt soaked with sweat and needing to down a quart of water. Because, and I may have alluded to this, it was hot outside.

Today doesn’t look to be any cooler, either. Maybe I’ll just hit the treadmill, this time.

Could have been better

But it could have been a whole lot worse, too.

I’m referring to my weight loss for the past week, if you’re wondering.  I managed to lose a whopping 0.8 pounds, which isn’t a whole lot.  But, in fairness, I also only hit my calorie budget four out of seven days – and the days I missed it, I missed it big.  And while I got all my walking in, I also only got my exercises done one day last week.  So while I’m clearly disappointed, I’m not surprised at all.

And that is the last of the kvetching.  Because I still made some progress, and this week will be better!  Although it will take some work to hit my walking goals, since it’s 5 am and 75 degrees Fahrenheit out right now.  And humid.  When I took my dog out at 4 am it was like walking into a wet, warm blanket.  And it’ll probably just get warmer and nastier over time.  The forecast is actually for a high of 90, with possible thunderstorms.  Time to look seriously at walking inside today.  Fortunately, my building is large.  I’m going to miss the nature trail, though.

Climbing to the peak is not a metaphor in this case

I think I may have lost a few pounds this week just from sweat.

It has been crazy hot all week.  Hot to the point that, when I go outside on break to go walking, I come back in with sweat running down my back and soaking my hair.  And that’s from walking.  And as I walk, I see people jogging or even flat-out running on the trails.  I can’t imagine how they don’t die.

Despite the absurd heat (which is anticipated to just get hotter as we go into the weekend) I’ve managed to keep up with my walking goal – heck, I’ve hit it by dinnertime three out of the last four days.  So that’s good.  And I’m finding myself trying to do things to change up the walks, so I don’t get bored.  Like climbing a steep hill.

Seriously.  There’s this one trail called the Overlook Trail, because you walk out and come to the edge of a steep hill that looks out over the valley below the campus where I work.  It’s a heck of a view, with enough trees that you almost can’t see the road or the WalMart at the bottom.  So, because I could, I walked the road along the bottom of the hill and then climbed up to the trail.  It was a lot of fun, but perhaps – in retrospect – not the best thing to be doing in work clothes when I’m only halfway through the day.

As far as the weight loss goes?  I’m feeling pretty good about that.  I’ve hit my calorie budget three out of the last four days, and I’ve blown through my walking goal four out of the last four days, so that seems positive.  Wish me luck!

Deceptively Simple Questions

I’ve had some good conversations over the past few days, with my wife and with one of my neighbors.  Over the course of these conversations, I got asked a few questions that I’m still thinking about.  They were those kind of questions, the kind that – although simple – stay with you and hang on and don’t let go.  Questions like “is this easy for you, now?” and “how did you do it?” and “how do you feel?”.

There are no simple answers to any of these questions, it turns out.  But, drawing on what I said at the time I was asked them and what I’ve thought about since then, here’s my attempt at answering them.

How did you do it?

I actually get this question a lot, pretty much from anyone who hears for the first time that I’ve lost as much weight as I have.  The answer sounds simple:  “I started walking, and I count calories”.  Because that’s usually what I say.  But it skips a whole lot of things.  It skips the time and energy I put into working out calorie counts for my meals.  It skips the effort that went in to finding tools and resources that I could use to calculate calorie content, and then track it.  It doesn’t mention the long and (initially) painful process of pushing myself to exercise and then pushing my self again and then pushing harder.  It doesn’t consider the exhaustion, or look at the self-loathing that I had to deal with as I forced myself to finally confront where I was and what I’d done to myself.

“I started walking, and I count calories.”  It sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Is this easy for you, now?

Sort of.  Some of it is hard, really hard.  I work full time and have a home and a five year old.  It’s hard to fit in my exercise routine, what with working and cooking and laundry and spending time with my wife and son and all of the other things in my life that are also important.  Eating within my calorie budget is still hard as well.  I know for a fact that, when I stop worrying about hitting that budget, I eat between 2,800 and 3,000 calories on average.  Even after a year I still struggle with motivation, with fatigue, and with just wanting to sit on the couch instead of going for that last half mile walk I need to hit goal.

That said, it has gotten easier.  Sure, the exercise feels just as difficult, but I’m also doing far more than I used to.  When I started, after all, I didn’t even have a distance goal for my walking.  I just had a goal of “walk three times a day”, and if I only went a few hundred yards each time it was enough.  Because it was something, and it was more than I’d been doing.  Crunches and pushups and stretching and all of the other things I do weren’t even on my radar, and the idea of walking 5.5 miles a day seemed like a pipe dream.  But now I walk nearly a mile on each of my breaks at work, and my day feels off if I don’t.  I stretch and work on flexibility five times a week, do some bodyweight exercises three times a week, and I’m actually hitting closer to six miles a day walking.

Sure, it’s still hard.  But that’s because, for some of it, I’ve chosen to make it hard.

How do you feel?

Day to day, I don’t think I feel any different.  In my head, I don’t normally notice any difference in myself.  I live in my skin 24/7 after all, and I’m acutely aware of my failures and how much more work I have in order to succeed.  Heck, that last sentence demonstrates exactly what I mean by that:  “how much more work I have in order to succeed”.  Think about that.  I’ve lost 123 pounds in 12 months, 10 pounds a month, and I think of myself as not having succeeded yet.

That’s one of the reasons I like to celebrate the milestones and the weekly weight loss numbers in this blog.  It’s why I’ve started forcing myself to accept people’s congratulations and recognize the effort I’ve put in, rather than try to minimize it.  To remind myself that I have succeeded.  I may not have hit my final goal yet, but sustaining an average weight loss of 10 pounds a month for a year (and doing it in a healthy manner) is success by any measure you care to use.

How do I feel?  I feel good.  I can do more things.  I’ve got more energy.  I’ve been swimming more this summer than I’ve been in the last five years I’ve lived in my condo complex.  I can walk places with my son and play games with him, and my back and arms don’t hurt when I carry him to bed or give him horsey rides.  I’m getting outside more, and starting more physical hobbies.  My knees don’t hurt anywhere near as much or as often, and I’m sleeping better, and I actually don’t mind looking in the mirror any more.

I’m never going to be done with this,not really.  Oh, sure, I’ll eventually hit the point where my goal is maintenance instead of weight loss.  But I’ll never be done with exercising, or with watching what I eat, or with struggling with the need to do those things.  I don’t think this will ever feel simple and easy.  But, you know what?  I think it’ll always feel like it’s worth it.