I’ll start by saying I may have way too much time for contemplation on my hands which is somewhat ironic because this has been the busiest summer in a while. My life for the past several months has been almost consumed with this weight-loss journey so it makes sense that my brain goes there.
Disclaimer: I’m not a scientist. I’m not a health expert. I’m not an anthropologist. I’m just a girl with a blog and a head full of thoughts.
So many people ask me regularly how I lost/am losing the weight. In fact, it was recently brought to my attention that people who will remain nameless have been talking about it amongst themselves like I’ve found a secret fountain of weight-loss magic that I’m not sharing. Truth: it’s diet and exercise.
I posted this screenshot a little less than a month ago and later found out it was quite a controversy. Cara eats pizza and ice cream? What? She’s dieting! How can this be? Not that it’s anyone’s business exactly what I eat, I understand the need to understand…if that makes sense.
When I say diet, I mean a caloric deficit which is to consume less than you burn. You figure out your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) using an online tool such as this one, this one, or this one. Then, you subtract calories from that determined by how much you want to lose. By subtracting 500 calories from your TDEE, you’re aiming at a 1 pound per week loss (1 pound equals 3500 calories) which is a healthy rate of loss without too crazy of restrictions.
Now, back to the image above. Yes, I had pizza this day but it was a mini microwavable pizza and I was moving in two days and trying to clear out my freezer. Yes, I had ice cream but it was a Chilly Cow which has 6 grams of protein and is pretty low cal for a tasty sweet treat. The two shake looking icons represent the protein shakes I drink because my personal trainer suggested I consume 120 grams of protein a day. The cookie was a treat and it was not healthy but it was delicious. My point is that yes, I ate pizza, and ice cream, and a cookie that day BUT I stayed within my calorie range which is the point of a caloric deficit. Finally, real quick for those who may be thinking that “yes, she’s losing weight but is this really a healthy diet?” You’re looking at a one day snapshot not what I eat everyday. My blood work says I’m healthy (the healthiest I’ve been in years, in fact).
I think what may be surprising about this revelation of pizza, ice cream, and a cookie is that we as a culture equate diet was deprivation. Yes, I have had the munchies for several days now so I am depriving myself in this aspect but, for the most part, I eat what I want. It is about the choices I make not what I withhold from myself. I didn’t gain 100 pounds overnight. That was 17 years of eating out large portions of fatty foods, drink large amounts of sugary sodas, and not being active that caused those 100 pounds to pack on. Because I didn’t gain it overnight, I can’t expect to lose it overnight either (and hope to keep it off) and neither can you.
The dichotomy in how, as a culture, we view food and diet has become very apparent these last few months. We value being thin and it seems to be the ideal however every event from celebrations to tragedies seem to be centered around food. What’s more is that, even though it is recognized that being thin is an ideal, those who are dieting may be criticized at these events if they don’t “cheat.” In May, Teacher Appreciation Week was celebrated with a different celebratory meal or treat each day. Although it was mostly understood why I wasn’t partaking at every opportunity, I was at times made to feel guilty that I wasn’t appreciating the gesture by eating/drinking. Phrases like “I like a girl who can eat” are used to refer to thin woman who order a hamburger instead of a salad but would never be said about an overweight woman. Dieters are frequently joked to about “cheating” at celebratory events but (I’d hope) no one would say that to someone with an alcohol or drug addiction. We want to have it both ways but it just doesn’t work.
Phew! Sorry, I got a little heated there.
You’ve probably seen this quote from Kate Moss who said “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” I used to say that she must have never had tacos.
Although my goal is not to be skinny, I changed it to healthy because I’m realizing the truth of this statement. At the new apartment, there isn’t a bark park so Coco and I have been taking multiple walks a day. We’ve been averaging two miles a day. I listen to a podcast and we just zig zag throughout the community. I walk to take the trash and recycling where I used to load it in my car and drive it. I walk to the grocery store and the gym. I walk and I’m not winded. I do a full hour of Zumba or another class without thinking I’m going to keel over. I can put it a whole day of activities and feel satisfied with the day instead of so exhausted I collapse onto the couch. (We’ll see what happens when school starts again. That’s always mega exhausting).
Back to the famous pizza and ice cream –
I’ve harped on this in other posts. It isn’t about going a diet but making a maintainable, sustainable lifestyle change. It’s also about baby steps. If you’re eating out breakfast, lunch, and dinner at 4000 calories a day with no exercise, it is not feasible to immediately restrict to vegetables only, 1000 calories a day, with rigorous exercise. Small changes built over time will do more to create lasting change than making a complete 180.
I know myself. I love sweet treats. If someone told me to be healthy, I couldn’t have another sweet treat, I’d probably say I couldn’t do this then. I love pizza. I love cheesy-fry goodness BUT, since I love walking 2 miles without getting winded more, I watch the portions. I balance out those things I love with things that will keep me moving forward.
To do this, you also have to be brutally honest. Yesterday, there was a Teacher Event at Walmart where there was cake and ice cream. Yes, I ate the cake and ice cream and my first thought was, “I won’t log this. This isn’t a big piece of cake and that is just a little dab of ice cream.” False! Log everything! I did log both the cake and the ice cream but I had to guess on proportions which is not ideal.
Sidebar: if you’re really interested in logging your food and tracking your calories, you must invest in a food scale. Seriously.
When you are looking to make a change, you have to think: Can I do this for the rest of my life? Since I know I love sweet treats, I have to balance that and incorporate it into my plan to lose and then maintain my weight. That may be budgeting my calories so that I can eat the sweet treat without going over my daily calories. If I do go over one day, that may mean eating less the next so the week is still at a deficit. That may mean taking a maintenance break during celebratory times. If I just deprived myself of sweet treats, not only would I resent the journey but there would be more of a potential to binge and then feel like a failure.
I will admit, I have felt like a failure the past couple weeks. I haven’t lost anything since the first of July. I take that back, I’ve lost three pounds but it was three pounds I gained…and then lost…and then gained again…and then lost again. It has been very frustrating. I’ve maintained a caloric deficit, I’ve worked out six out of seven days a week but I’ve been stuck. What really stinks is being SO CLOSE to my initial goal and yet struggling so far to pass that marker. (It’s not a finish line because a lifestyle change means this is forever. There is no going back).
After feeling like a failure most of the week, I woke up this morning, opened Facebook, and saw a notification for a photo posted of me a year ago today. It was taken at the Frida Fest where my friend Nanette was selling her photography book I had formatted and created the title design for. There aren’t many full body photos of me from before so it was jarring at first to see myself. Then I compared.
I’d felt like a failure for two weeks because I had been losing and gaining and losing the same three pounds over and over again. What I neglected to realize is that I kept off the 78 pounds! Yes, it is frustrating to work toward a goal and seemingly make no headway but the proof is in the pictures. We as humans are so quick to point out the mistakes that we have to see past those mistakes or failures to see what has gone right. Please help me remember this when my mindset decides to revert back to the I-can’t-I’m-a-failure realm.
I’ve mentioned a change in my confidence as I’ve lost the weight. I wear more dresses. I wear less baggy clothes in general. Even though I acknowledge that those changes have occurred, I’m still the same person. I bring this up because I’ve been asked and even my friends have been asked if I’m going to start dating now that I’ve lost the weight. Wait, what? The reason I didn’t date was all because of my weight? It didn’t have anything to do with having limited social circle, anxiety, introversion, and dating just not being a priority? Wow! Wait…how come I know plenty of overweight people who date, get married, are happy in wedded bliss, etc? Did their weight not effect their dating prospects/potential too? Do you see where I’m going? The reason I really don’t date has much more to do with my mind, my expectations in a prospective mate, and my social anxiety/awkwardness than it does my body. I acknowledge that that is quite a statement and there are many things I need to work on but I feel it is offensive to assume that my looks have been the reason I’m single.
That being said, one of the things I need to work on is this feeling that I’m really a fraud. Who am I to spouting out weight-loss advice like I’m some expert? I feel like I’m going to open my eyes and realize that my friends and family have all just been playing along and this hasn’t really been happening. Does everyone just smile and nod their heads so they don’t hurt my feelings knowing that there is no way I’ve lost all this weight? Do people assume I’m lying? Can you really tell a difference or is it all in my head? My mind understands the number on the scale went down and I’m wearing smaller clothes but yet I’m still that girl.
When I talk about going to the gym, is this really me or am I just a really good faker? When I talk about a caloric deficit, is this really me or am I just a really good faker? Is this lifestyle change possible or am I just faking it until I get tired and revert back to my old ways?
As a side note: the fraud feeling seeps into pretty much every aspect of my life. Am a great teacher or just really good faker? Am I good musician or just a really good faker?
I do realize that this is all my brain but it amazes me how something that is seemingly so physical (dieting, exercise, etc.) has such an extensive mental component. Maybe others have these thoughts too? I’m just the only crazy pants sharing them with the world.
Thank you for being my counseling session.