THe A&L Weight Loss Series Presents: Gaining Momentum


First off, Happy Pi Day! For those of you who think with the left side of the brain, that means the celebration of the mathematical constant representing the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. For the right siders, that means the celebration of the homophonous and infinitely more delicious pie. I majored in English, so you can probably bet pretty safely as to which one I care more about. And also can’t have yet.

The irony in Pi Day (at least for me and today) is that on this one in particular, I managed to hit my lowest weight in around four years, clocking in at 173.8! You can bet that when I stepped off of the scale this morning, I was grinning so wide, you’d have thought someone had given me a Glasgow smile – only without all of the blood.

Anyway, the reason I felt so giddy about it is because I’ve been stuck at a stagnant point in my weight loss regime for well over a month. No matter how well I tried to eat, no matter how hard or often I exercised, the goddamned scale absolutely refused to budge to under 175. I had to remind myself that I was succeeding in other ways – I could do more reps per exercise at the gym, I could run more consistently when I went jogging, I continuously shaved precious seconds off of my mile run (I dropped my mile run time from 11:46 to 10:55 in the span of three weeks! A major victory that I think constitutes my being allowed to have cake and ice cream on my birthday). Yet I have to confess that for all of my self-righteous spouting in my last post, I do check the scale to see how I’m doing, because I do have a numeric weight goal to reach and it’s kind of hard to know if I’ve achieved it without, you know, measuring it on a scale. I was feeling a little discouraged yesterday about the fact that the scale still wasn’t moving, especially because I found out my 10-year high school reunion is being planned for August of this year, and I’ll be absolutely damned if I’m going to show up as the same person – down to my weight – that I was in high school. So all of those factors combined this morning after I stepped on the scale cumulated in a big fat sigh of relief and a jump for joy from me.

Momentum with weight loss follows every other form of physics on the planet, in that it starts out really slowly, and then has to gradually build – and I think that’s part of the reason people are so easily discouraged. You see these people on TV or read about them, or you talk to them at the gym,  and they’ve already gained momentum, so they’re losing 2-3 pounds or more per week, whereas you’re in month 2 or 3 and you have yet to see a single iota of change. Maybe you lost a pound, maybe your pants are just a tiny bit less snug, but you’d expect to be pulling the same kind of weekly weight loss as people who have been doing it for much longer. It’s really frustrating to think that people who are twice your size are losing twice the weight you are in half the time doing half as much, or someone who’s in your age and weight range just cutting out one or two junk food items or hitting the gym once or twice a week and is dropping weight like a rock. It contributes to a very defeatist mindset, and it’s one that I know I’ve had for a number of years, so I guess I just wanted to share my perspective on it to help anyone who’s been in a similar situation to understand that things will, in fact, get  better.

The biggest problem that I think is prevalent in the weight-loss community, and I’ve mentioned it before, is the use of scales as a measure of health or success. People can tell you that on the first day you decide to go running, or to go to the gym, that you’re already healthier than you were yesterday, but you certainly don’t believe it because you go home and step on the scale and absolutely nothing has changed. So, the first step in changing your attitude about healthy habits and exercise is to stop using the scale as a measure of your health. Your scale measures your weight. It does not measure your BMI, your cholesterol level, or how fast or far you can run, how much you can lift, or how long you can go. It measures your weight, something that can be affected by a multitude of different things – not just fat. Your weight can be influenced by water retention, the contents of your digestive system, and, most significantly, by the amount of muscle you have. Muscle does, in fact, weigh more than fat, and I had to have my friend Amanda beat that into my head for weeks before I finally accepted it. Fat is a factor too, but just because you’re noticing you still have some jiggle in your thighs doesn’t mean you’re not making progress if you’re performing healthy habits on a DAILY BASIS. What you’re doing today is building momentum. The longer you do it, the more momentum you gain. If you’re pushing a boulder across a field, you have to start out with the most amount of work, and the longer you go, once that momentum is achieved, the easier it gets to roll that rock. That’s why the first step is not only the most important, but also the most difficult, and it’s where people falter the fastest. It’s why people who make resolutions at New Years to go back to the gym are usually gone by February. The initial phase is the hardest, and shows the least amount of progress. The real progress happens when you get the ball rolling, and then, there’s no stopping you.

But you have to remove yourself from the mindset that your weight is the ONLY indicator of your success. The scale is the tiniest factor in measuring your progress, but people turn it into the most important tool. And I realize that stopping relying on the scale is an easier concept to say than it is to apply. Even when I was stuck at 175 on the scale for well over a month, people were still commenting on how much slimmer I looked, and I realized that my body was, in fact, changing. There was a meme floating around on Facebook that says it takes 4 weeks (this is a rough estimate, I can’t remember the details for the life of me) for you to notice a change in your body and 12 weeks for everyone else to notice, but I don’t think that that’s necessarily true. I actually think that because people who are trying to lose weight have a general predisposition to be more self-critical, that other people notice your weight loss/body changing before you yourself do. Plus it all goes back to the scale, unfortunately. The first time someone told me I looked skinnier, I thought they were just being nice, because it was someone I know and see often, and I knew for a fact that my weight as far as being measured by the scale hadn’t changed from the previous time I’d see them up until they’d made the comment. But then it was others – people I hadn’t seen in a few months, no less, telling me how good I looked, asking how much weight I’d lost, commenting that I must’ve been hitting the gym pretty hard! You can be self-effacing as much as you want only to a certain extent – then afterwards, you kind of have to accept that there’s something GOOD going on here, because the world, in fact, didn’t just randomly go collectively crazy. I was still at 175 and had been for a while, and even then, the most weight I’d lost in recent months was 5 pounds, and surely it didn’t make THAT much of a difference. But it did. Not because the weight was gone, but because I was, in fact, losing fat. My body was changing. I was gaining muscle, which more than likely compensated for the fat loss as far as my weight. I was running farther and faster, I was lifting more weight and more reps, and my clothes were getting looser by the day. The progress was there. It’s still there, and I didn’t need a scale to see it, once I really began to understand that change was,in fact, happening.

I don’t want to tell people to throw their scales away because that would make a hypocrite out of me. I still have mine. I check my weight every day (which is a big no no, by the way. Weight can fluctuate from day to day based on hormones and water retention, especially if you’re a woman), because I do glean quite a bit of comfort out of having a number to show my progress. But it’s not the only number I base my progress on. It’s paired up there with my current mile-run time, how many weeks into Couch to 5K I am, how many pounds I can lift or press, and how many reps I can do. If that scale goes up, I have all of those other numbers to remind me that I’m not failing. All of those numbers together are what measure how exercising has positively affected my body, but at the end of the day, my feelings of happiness and optimism and overall good health are what measure my success. And that’s because I’ve finally gained enough momentum.

A&L Special Series: Weight Loss With a Girl Who Knows Jack Squat About Weight Loss


So this blog post is going to be the first in a series about my own personal battles with my weight, and my journey to change it. I know plenty of you out there would rather not read about it, but I’d like to say I’m chronicling it for my own sake, and for the sake of those out there who know what it feels like to be intimidated by women who already have fabulous bodies. I know I sure am.

So backstory. I’ve been a little bit on the heavier side my entire life, and before anyone brands me with all that “oh it’s just the media pumping unrealistic body images in your face” stuff, it’s something I’ve known since I was a kid. A part of me knew that I wasn’t as healthy as I ought to be, especially when I was always finishing near last in mile runs and I would drop out of sports only halfway through. Of course, it doesn’t help when your best friend is tiny and gorgeous, so I kind of got into the mindset of why even bother to try, because failure was imminent anyway.

It wasn’t until I hit my twenties that I realized that that was exactly my problem – it wasn’t my weight, it was my mentality. It wasn’t that my body couldn’t handle running a mile, or finishing a soccer game. It was my mind convincing me that it couldn’t. I always gave up halfway through instead of pushing myself to finish. It went hand-in-hand with an unfortunately common mentality that I’m not alone in possessing – if you don’t see results instantly, it’s not working. So for the longest time, I didn’t try, because when I did, I didn’t see any immediate change. And when I didn’t see any change, I didn’t want to continue. Why make yourself sweaty and gross if you were just going to step on the scale the next morning and see that the number is still the same as it was yesterday? It’s not particularly encouraging.

But I decided I did want to make myself better. I was battling depression in my early twenties that was intrinsically linked to many of my own personal demons, one of which, of course, was my astonishing lack of self-esteem. But then, of course, came real life, and with it, many of the excuses that people use in order to avoid going to the gym. I was a full-time college student and I was at several points in time working up to three jobs in order to pay rent and living expenses. I didn’t have the time or the money for the gym. And then something happened. My last year of CC, I took a semester each of yoga and pilates as part of my PE requirement, and during that time, I lost roughly 30 pounds. I dropped from 183 to 155, and was below 160 for the first time since I was 15 years old. It was fucking MAGICAL.

Losing that kind of weight was a turning point for me. It changed every perception I had about my body and what it could do. People complimented me on how much better I looked and I marvelled in how much better I FELT. Not only being able to fit into pants with a single digit size number, but I had more energy and a greatly improved disposition. Despite the fact that I was going through a messy breakup at the time, I felt like I was on top of the world. That there wasn’t anything that could stop me.

Then I went to University.

If I had thought community college full-time with two jobs was a chore, I can look back now and laugh at how naive I was. University was pure insanity. I never had time for anything, and since I worked at a coffee shop, it was everything I could do to stop myself falling asleep in class or passing out after I got home. I got caught back up in the norms of college life, from late nights to processed food to living in the library. I also had a social life I had to try to maintain if I was to keep my sanity, and of course, that year of yoga and pilates came almost entirely undone. I went back up to a rousing 182 pounds by the end of my junior year of college, and I was mad as a hatter. Something had to change. ESPECIALLY because I just found out my best friend was getting married, and because God just loves to throw in the cliches, the two other bridesmaids (at the time. Hava raised it to 7 by the time the wedding happened) were, of course, a fucking fitness model and a competitive triathlete. Both of them are, of course, wonderful, lovely, amazing women with great personalities who are both as sweet as pie, but I had to stand next to them in a dress and get to be the token fat bridesmaid. UGH.

Through dieting and whatever exercise I managed to pull off, by the time the wedding came around, I managed to drop down to 175 pounds, which is, of course, about 30 pounds off the mark of what I had wanted to be. But I could fit into my dress, which was one small accomplishment. I knew my body shape wasn’t going to change particularly drastically because of my bone structure – I have a broad rib cage and a wide pelvic bone. It just so happens that I also happen to have a rather poochy gut, fat on my arms, and a huge ass. I went through my best friend’s wedding feeling okay, but knowing that I could’ve felt so much better.

And that brings us to here and now. I’ve since quit working the coffee shop circuit, I’ve discovered both Couch to 5K and MyFitnessPal, and I’ve signed up for my very first 5k in July – despite the fact that I can barely finish running a single mile, let alone 6. I’ve learned that cardio alone isn’t going to keep my weight off, that I have to mix it up with building muscle, which was really where I went wrong after I stopped doing yoga. And I did the most important thing I could do in order to have a successful venture in weight loss. I made time to do it. Instead of trying to fit my exercising around my work life, I fit my work life around my exercising. And I know that that is much easier said than done, since I’m more fortunate than most to have a very flexible job, but I really think that people sell themselves short on making time to take care of themselves, which is why so many people stall in the health game, or, like how I used to be, just drop out entirely. I’ve managed to get into the routine of going to the gym 3 days a week, and doing my Couch to 5K the other three with one rest day. I try to keep track of my carb and calorie intake with MyFitnessPal. After all, after the wedding, I managed to eke back up to 185, and I came dangerously close to hitting 190. But since I’ve taken control of my fitness and physical well-being, I got back down to 175, and I can only lose more from here. My goal is still to hit 145, preferably by summer. I did not make the most successful start, in terms of numbers. And trust me, I get pretty discouraged when I see that the scale is still stubbornly hitting 175.6, when my short term goal by the end of February (now March) was to break the 170 mark for the first time in several years. 

But I can’t be discouraged by the fact that I don’t see instantaneous results, or maybe that the results aren’t happening the way I want them to. I have to take every pound, every ounce lost as a victory. I have to realize that every time I zip up a dress or pair of pants and they fit a little better than before that I’m making progress. I may not be a size 8 yet, but I’m certainly not a 12 anymore. And for me, that’s saying something.

My current weight loss and diet plan is as follows. I use the ketosis diet as a temporary boost, and am planning on continuing it until around mid-April, when I’ll be phasing complex carbs and grains back into my diet slowly. I’m currently on Week 3 of the Couch to 5, although I’ve been doing it for about six weeks, and this is because if I don’t feel satisfied with my progress during one of the weeks, I’ll simply start over. I go to the gym three days a week, where I’ll start off with a mile run, followed by abs, and then do arms one day, legs the next, and a full-body workout on the third. I’m feeling that I might be peaking with this routine though, and will be looking for new exercises in order to break through the wall. I’ve only recently discovered the Tone It Up community, and while I normally balk at overly-peppy women showing me how to use a kettlebell, it really is a pretty wonderful community filled with girls who aren’t supermodels or already stick-thin trying to tell me how to lose weight. There are girls like me who have all of their own struggles with weight and are in the process of taking control of their health too. Because it’s the feeling of loneliness, of being singled out, that is the most discouraging thing. The feeling that there isn’t anyone at the gym who understands because most of them are already so fit. So it definitely made a nice place to start. I also take an almost exorbitant amount of advice from my bestie’s sister-in-law, the aforementioned fitness model, at Via Thea, as she majored in kinesiology, is a certified fitness trainer, and is, of course, a bona fide hottie – major ethos there, amirite?

So the best advice I can give anyone in situations where they feel that their weight loss situation is hopeless is that all of those ridiculous memes on Facebook that remind you that you are your own worst enemy, biggest obstacle, etc., and that it takes time, is that all of those sayings are absolutely, and unfortunately, true. You are your own biggest obstacle, and no fitness goal can be instantaneously achieved. It takes weeks, even months, to really make a difference. And it’s hard to keep in perspective that by taking the first step that you’re already a step ahead of where you were before when the scale is reading the same today as it was yesterday, or even last week. But something that I’ve learned is that success isn’t measured in numbers, but in milestones. When I achieved my goal of being able to run a full mile without stopping, I had broken through the wall that my weight was the only indicator of my health. Find a small goal to achieve, and achieve it. Get addicted to the feeling of success. Stop using the scale as an indicator of your success. Find friends who can support you emphatically, not just with words, but with actions. And stop comparing yourself to the fitness models.

I know. Easier said than done.