I have a number of health issues–ribs and back problems, a MULTITUDE of problems with my lady parts that range from “irritating” to “so painful I’d rather be unconscious.” I have been battling various degrees of anxiety and panic attacks following a brain injury a few years ago which, finally, seem to be mostly under control (thanks, Science). I have had cancer chopped out of my skin and will undoubtedly have to deal with that again. Up until a few months ago I adhered to mostly healthy eating habits (but, you know, with cheese and brownies on the regular) but was still 45 pounds overweight. However, for the most part, I consider myself quite healthy. I don’t know if that’s wishful thinking or denial, but it’s the truth.
Now, with the exception of my weight, an annual physical would confirm that my blood pressure is good, my cholesterol lower than average, and my heart and lungs are clear and doing just fine. Hey, I even grew an inch this year!
However. As my weight continued to creep higher and higher, as my life became more and more sedentary, and my psyche more stressed…I knew I was deliberately ignoring my health. In a larger sense of health I was doing fine–no smoking or drugs, diligent sunscreen application, regular dental check-ups, and take care of my mental health, as well as working with my doctor for years to try and figure out and treat my lady-part issues. But in my day-to-day activities, I was not a recognizable “healthy” person. A few months ago I stepped on the scale and audibly gasped. 198 pounds! On my
5’7″ 5’8″ frame that puts me in a size 14. I’d been buying 12-14 pants/leggings and XL skirts for months, but seeing that 198 pounds on the scale, that was the catalyst. I finally decided to make a permanent change, and promised myself I’d stick with it.
I started going to the gym several times a week. I hated it.
I started buying and then eating more vegetables than any other food, and I stopped buying or baking sweets. I sometimes still devoured just-purchased pastries in my car, in secret, feeling guilty and sick to my stomach.
I made a goal to drink more water and less Diet Dr. Pepper (this is my most difficult health goal, to date).
I kept going to the gym, running a little faster, moving a little bit longer.
I kept buying vegetables, I planned entire meals around zucchini or cauliflower. I instigated scheduled treats, for legit celebrations. I stopped feeling guilty or ashamed about a slice of cake for a birthday.
I added speed intervals to my time on the treadmill, running a little faster and a little longer every week. I figured out it takes 75 minutes of an elevated heart rate for my “runner’s high” to kick in.
I started tracking calories and made sure to burn several hundred more a day than I consumed. I loved knowing the numbers for my inputs and outputs, it turned into a little game.
Slowly, my fluffy parts got a little less fluffy. I stopped craving chocolate and Kraft mac and cheese.
In the last couple of months I have lost 25 pounds, and kept it off. I can run a 5k in less than 35 minutes without wanting to die. I can do this by running a consistent 11-minute mile, and I can ALSO do it by running speed intervals as well. I eat veggies and lean protein almost every meal, limit fruit to a few times a week, and for the most part skip bread and sugar completely.
I am 33 years old and working towards a regular day-to-day health that I have never once possessed. And most surprising to me? I actually like it. I am
stubborn bossy particular about how I frame this new version of my health.
I refuse to give up cheese or dairy.
I don’t like dancing in front of anyone, so Zumba is out-out-out and nothing you can say will change that.
I don’t eat chia seeds, or oatmeal, or green smoothies because I cannot stand the taste or texture and would rather just eat a salad instead of ruining pineapple or a banana with liquid spinach juice.
Without 90 minutes at the gym, my work-from-home routine will net me about 700 steps throughout the day. So, I go to the gym for 90 minutes to hit my 10,000 steps (thanks, Fitbit, you creeper). It is sometimes inconvenient and makes me disgustingly sweaty, but I do it anyway.
And here is the continuously most surprising thing: I have started to like this new routine. I like the veggie-heavy menu; I like spending 90 minutes at the gym (with an audiobook, I am not a robot). I do not miss cupcakes or sandwiches or nightly Netflix marathons. In fact, if I skip the treadmill for a few days I get antsy and irritable. Who am I?
I’m just me, but….healthier?
I am not sleeping better. My skin is not clearer or my hair shinier. To be honest, I’m not even entirely sure that I feel better on a daily basis. But, I know that my heart and lungs are healthier, my brain hamsters are running themselves to exhaustion on a treadmill instead of round and around my head. And my guts certainly appreciate my mostly-whole foods menu.
I still have 20 pounds to go, and I imagine they will be harder to lose than this first 25, but I am hoping to be back to my “fighting weight” sometime this fall. What will I do at that point? Honestly, I don’t really know. I’ve thought of running a half marathon as a way to help me stay focused those last few pounds. But even if I don’t do that, I want to maintain this input (food) and output (burning calories) routine. And not because of my new pants size, and the section of “once upon a time” clothes in my closet I will be able to wear again. But mostly, because this daily change has brought about some more recognizable long-term health benefits that I have started to actually value.
I’ve been adulting for YEARS and am finally figuring out how to take care of myself. Hey, who knows what I’ll do next!
Huge win! You go, girl!
Thanks, Lady! Getting into this regular health-habit thing has been harder than I thought it would be. Turns out, when you try and make a habit like that for the first time at age 33 your body/mind/lungs/legs try REALLY HARD to talk you out of it.
So proud of you! I’ve done something similar and I recognize a lot of what you’ve written! Even the shameful pastry sneaking, sigh.
If I may give you a tip, are you taking measurements? Because there is literally a 3 pound difference between me last year and this year, but at least one dress size, thanks to all the muscle I’ve built (from cardio, but also from strength training. Strength training is awesome for health and fat loss, but doesn’t always translate to lbs lost on a scale). Taking progress pictures and measurements helps me keep to the deficit I’m currently eating at because I can see that it does make a difference, even if the scale doesn’t say so…
anyway, you go girl!
I haven’t done measurements, but have been pulling out clothes I haven’t worn for 2 years and finding them fitting really well. I’m also tossing the fluff-clothes because I hated buying them in the first place.
Virtual high five girl! It is a hardcore struggle to try and stay in shape and actually make it something I enjoy doing. Lately we’ve been going carb-lite in our house and I rarely drink soda anymore. However I am super sedentary and I have to push myself to get out there and actually move. I’ve been running again, starting C25K from the beginning and I’ve been enjoying it although its been balls hot here. (Not as hot as by you, but still.)
I was supposed to run a half marathon last fall (the most I have done is a 10k) but I got crazy sick in the middle of training and then it all fell to crap from there. I’d love to pick one out in the future as an obtainable goal… but its also hard to run here when its winter. I’ve been playing with the idea of getting a treadmill but ughh thats the worst. I’d rather run outside!
I’m also generally low carb…but, with Diet Dr. Pepper. Ahem. 😉
I used to only run outside, I loved it. But I can’t do it here for 8 months of the year, so it’s the first time I’ve had a gym membership. That has been an adjustment, treadmills are my new normal, and I have to remind myself it’s better to tread than to a) run outside in 184 degree heat, or b) not run at all.
Oh feisty Harriet, this is so encouraging! I’ve just started trying to make the big change myself – I lost a whole lot of weight a few years ago but then put it all back on, and then some, in the last year while almost burning out at work. Now that I feel mentally better it’s time to get organised about it. It’s so good to hear your story – thanks!
Yep, that was about my issue leading up to now as well. Deep breaths. We can do this!
SEVENTY FIVE WHOLE CUSS WORD MINUTES??? No wonder I’ve never gotten a runner’s high: I refuse to run for more than like two unless my life is in danger. You are a champ, my friend. Brava.
When I started a few months ago I could really only run about 2 minutes before I had to stop and walk for 5…or 10. I can’t run 75 mins without stopping (I’m not a robot…or a Roomba), but I can run about 15, then walk 3 or 4 mins, then run 15 more, repeat. I’ve been super surprised at how my body (with very little lifetime encouragement from me) seems to LIKE this kind of stuff. Like, who ARE you, body!?
Congrats on getting healthier! I can’t wait to be cleared for exercise so that I can start running again!
I bet!!! I hope your recovery goes by without any hiccups!
On Fri, Jul 29, 2016 at 12:54 PM, Feisty Harriet wrote:
I’m always in awe of anyone who is bold enough to talk about their health journey in real numbers, as I find I’m too ashamed to share mine. Congrats on getting healthy! I am also on a journey… albeit a longer one. With a history of yo-yo dieting, I found myself at all-time-high, never-thought-possible weight three years after my pregnancy. I’m losing slowly, so I’m about 15 pounds down since January. Strength training has been where it’s at for me + lots of protein + veggies. Like you, I find extremely restrictive diets make me insane, but I have significantly cut back on bread and pasta, and when I do eat it, I find the gluten-free version don’t throw me into an “I need to eat all of the bread” tailspin like the regular versions do. Anyway, I appreciate these kinds of posts. Keep us posted on your journey! #TheyCanPryTheCheeseOutOfMyColdDeadHands
Thank you. I get nervous talking about it, mostly because I *know* I don’t look like the size/weight I am, but I also feel like if more people were honest about what, actually 125 or 150 or 175 or 200 pounds CAN look like, we’d all be able to give each other a lot more slack. Expert Tip: IT LOOKS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE! Our bodies are all so different, and I feel like celebrating those differences instead of trying to pretend they don’t exist, is really important. I’ve lost 25 pounds, and *most* people have hardly noticed. Whether that is how I carry my weight, or whether that is a pretty solid piece of evidence that most people don’t notice how much we weigh or what we actually look like. Either way, it’s been a good thing for me to understand.
On Sun, Jul 31, 2016 at 6:05 AM, Feisty Harriet wrote:
Way to go, you! I no longer have a scale because numbers make me crazy, but I like feeling good in my skin (most days). Proud of you for taking care of you!
This is the first time I’ve ever had or used a scale, and it’s…well, it’s both good and bad. Because of how I hold my weight, I honestly had *no idea* how much I weighed, and because I had never tracked calories–inputs or outputs–I really had no idea how much to feed myself and how much to work off in order to maintain or reduce my weight. As soon as I’m down to my healthy weight I imagine I won’t keep track of the scale, just the input/output figures. I cannot wait to finally feel comfortable in my skin again, it’s been a long time coming.
On Tue, Aug 2, 2016 at 10:15 AM, Feisty Harriet wrote:
That. Is. AWESOME!!
Ha, I feel you on so much of this. I too tend to think of myself as “healthy” despite my regular regime of specialists and chiropractor visits and weird-only-1%-of-people-get-this problems. My sister refers to me as the “healthiest sicko she knows” – meaning there’s almost always something wrong with me, but it’s not, like, due to catching illnesses!
Also: YES TO JUST EATING DAGGUM SPINACH. I agree there is no need to ruin other perfectly good foods by blending them together 🙂
(Also: heeee to 5’7″ – no, 5’8″! 🙂 )
I was looking up a lot of details about green smoothies, the ingredients, the calories, etc. Um, sure, they have lots of vitamins, but the ones that are even remotely palatable have a lot of fruit/sweet/sugary things in them–yes, pineapple is full of sugar! that’s why it’s sweet!–and the calories for one smoothie are not that low. I was surprised. I mean, I cannot imagine it being a replacement meal, but the calories say it should be, and honestly, maybe part of my issue is I do not morally agree to drinking my meals. I like to sit down with a real plate and a real fork and chew and perhaps have some sparkling conversation. Food and eating are pleasurable experiences for me, not utilitarian. I realize not every falls into that camp too, but I certainly do. So, more salads and no green smoothies for me!
On Tue, Aug 2, 2016 at 12:08 PM, Feisty Harriet wrote:
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Good for you! Sometimes making the first change is really only the hardest part… 🙂
Yes. And for me that “first change” is always weeks and weeks longer than I anticipate. Me and new habits are irregular bedfellows.
On Sun, Aug 7, 2016 at 12:54 AM, Feisty Harriet wrote:
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