I have had my weight loss goals on my mind for quite a while. It turns out as you get older, things like a slower metabolism, lack of activity, and emotional eating become a big part of our lives. And I've been no exception. For the last 6 years I have had a love hate relationship; with my scale, with the line that pops up in my midsection and the beautiful clothes that only look flattering on a mannequin. It's really been a battle for me and in learning how to get rid of my excess baggage, I've come out with a wealth of information and made a few friends along the way.
I've actually analyzed my weight issues. Now to most I don't have a weight issue. One of the things I've learned is that weight is really a subjective matter and it's an issue that comes from our perception of what it should be, what others tell us it should be or a combination of those two. For me, I had gained more weight than my frame could handle and I needed it gone to really experience the confidence that I was faking. I remember a birthday when I looked into my closet and had a complete meltdown because my birthday outfit seemed to seek out my fat pockets and put them on display. Or the times when I would wear an outfit, feeling great only to see pictures and see my belly sticking out. This went on for years... and though I haven't made a fuss about it, most people around me became aware that I desperately wanted to lose the extra fat I was carrying around. I've had a few friends scoff at me when I've talked about my weight, especially about the extra fat I carry in my midsection. Their disbelief/disdain is actually acceptable because I have generally done a good job hiding how big my belly really is.
I think it was in 5th grade. A few of us had formed a dance group and were performing for the class. Afterwards a couple of friends noted that while I was dancing, my belly was doing it's own dance and that when I walked into a room my belly walked in first. I was so crushed and that was the end of my dancing. I tearfully talked to my mother about it; up to this time she'd been reassuring me that it was just baby fat and would disappear as I got older. Clearly that hadn't happened so we had to go to plan b. She taught me how to hold my stomach in and as I'm sitting typing this, that's exactly what I am doing.
The extra fat around my belly has especially been bothersome to me because several studies have shown the danger of carrying extra weight around the midsection (vs. around hips, thighs, etc). The amount of visceral fat (midsection fat) determines how much fat surrounds the organs in our abdominal section and a higher amount of visceral fat has been directly linked to chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension etc. I've read many studies that suggest that a woman whose midsection measures more than 35 inches was carrying excess visceral fat. Until about a few months ago the biggest point of my midsection measured around 38 inches (for perspective, my hips measure no more than 42 inches). I definitely wanted this number to be much lower, if not for aesthetics, at least for my health.
I am one of the pickiest eaters that I know. I don't care for vegetables, I don't like trying new foods, don't like certain textures (mushroom & eggplant come to mind), don't like anything sour, or acidic (no pickles, thank you), or bitter (eek what's that bitter taste in my salad). I prefer my food fried and sweet...which means my favorite food has been and will always be fried plantain...and not just fried plantain, it has to be well seasoned, cut into the right size (not chunky) and fried to a beautiful just past golden brown color to obtain the right crunch. Yup I have a very picky palate. As a child, I didn't like my vegetables cooked, didn't really like raw vegetables, and was a vegetarian. In my ideal world, I would eat bread, rice, any baked goods, sugar and chocolate. Actually forget the bread and such, I would just eat chocolate and ice cream all day. I have a sweet tooth with matching dental cavities and dental bills to prove it. When it comes to sugar and especially chocolate, my brain only understands go...there's no stop mechanism at all. And to top it all, I have been vegetarian most of my life...which makes all this rather confusing.
My mother is a caterer and an excellent cook. Growing up, she whipped up various foods and didn't make much of a fuss about what I didn't like. When I moved to the US. it was a completely different story. My high school lunch consisted of cheese pizza, fries, crackers, maybe some fruit. It wasn't much better at home and slowly but surely I started gaining weight. College proved to be even more of a challenge. I had access to unlimited meals including cereal bars, French fries for days, a salad bar which I avoided, taco bars, pizza bars and all the sweet drinks I could enjoy. I also developed a habit of eating while I was studying which meant for a student that I was eating all the time. I gained 15 lbs by the end of my first quarter; 30 lbs by the end of the year. My cheeks were like balloons and nothing in my closet fit, which became problematic because there was no mall in sight in the little village of Athens. Sometime in my second year, I realized that my diet had to change and I started eating less, not necessarily healthier just less. I lost all 30lbs and finished college about the same weight I started. After college, I worked for about a year. During that time I had 3 jobs and not much time to cook. I lost weight and weighed the lowest I can remember. I was actually very unhealthy at the time, but there wasn't much I could do as I wasn't living on my own. Then came grad school and having learned from my college years watched what I ate, but still the numbers on the scale rose. Once I was done with grad school, the real world meant that I had full control of my eating, except lunching with coworkers, eating whatever was at hand because I was too tired to cook, emotional eating, and constantly snacking. The scale was a constant painful reminder of my bad eating habits.
I wasn't too active in high school. I took PE classes during the year and realized I didn't like &/ understand the concept of running or playing sports. My hand-eye coordination was terrible so tennis, badminton, volleyball etc were all lost on me. I'd never been much of an athlete, though I was a cadet from 6th to 9th grade. In college, time at the gym was more of a social event; there really wasn't much else to do on campus, so the gym I went and did a few workouts here and there. Once I'd gained weight though, the gym became my place to de-stress, workout and to study. I found solace on the stationary bikes, rowing machines and even picked up running on the indoor track. My grad school didn't have a gym nearby so I would do various exercise DVDs in my room but didn't get much activity in.
I didn't really realize how much weight I was gaining until I hit some huge numbers. I made it to 180 lbs in college and that has become the absolute no-no for me since then. During grad school I made it to 170 lbs and realized I had to get a handle on it; but somehow my motivation was often missing. I really didn't like all the extra weight I was carrying around, but it wasn't so bad that I was trying very hard to do something about it.
In all of it, my weight had been another half-stepping opportunity in my world. Somehow I have finally found the right combination, and the weight has been coming off. There's still much work to be done. My ultimate goal for my weight loss has shifted from a number on the scale to sculpting muscles and discovering if I can have a 6-pack, a 4-pack or at least something like that looks like flat abs.
I've learned from talking to my 30 something year old friends that weight loss is a vital part of our world, so I'll be sharing my winning weight loss combination over a few blog posts. I'm excited to work towards the next level and I hope you will all join me for my ride towards a 6 pack.