I'm writing to you out of complete, end of my rope, frustration. I am (almost) 39 years old, and the mother of four. My youngest is two and a half. I have been working out and eating healthily for most of my adult life, although I have been hyper focused on it for about the past six years. The year before my youngest was born, I was in the best shape of my life. I completed a half marathon, I was fit, I was at a happy weight for me... then came baby.
I worked out and tracked my calories up until about a week before I had him. Then I started back up almost immediately after his birth. I started gaining AFTER he was born, which is literally my worst nightmare. I tried all my old tricks - calorie counting, running, lifting...I even completed another half marathon just after my baby turned one. I continued to gain weight.
I tried cutting calories and carbs to no avail. I decided to give Weight Watchers a try. I lost 16 pounds in about 6 months, then completely plateaued. I decided to see how many calories I was getting, and it was only 800-1000 a day. Not even enough to survive, which explains the plateau. I am at a complete loss right now. I'm back to looking at calories and eating nutritious food, but I'm afraid of gaining that 16 pounds back. Help!!!
I have been tested for all the things, and everything is fine. My vitamin D was a little low, so I got a supplement. My doctor told me to do intermittent fasting, which just doesn't seem feasible with my lifestyle. I have a very tough time being hungry, and I don't think I can keep my kids alive during a fast. I'm currently aiming for 1500 calories a day, but I don't know if that's too few, too many, just right....I'm completely overwhelmed. For workouts, I do one 3 mile run per week, then alternate HIIT and heavy lifting the other five days. I am 5'5ish, 189 pounds. My waist is about 34 inches, and I do have a lot of muscle under all the chub. I only really want to lose about 20-25 pounds. I would appreciate any guidance, thank you!!
I want to share two stories with you, one about a friend and one about me. I want to share these stories with you in hopes that maybe they will give you a little help in your search for balance and a state of mind where you can continue to challenge yourself without the constant pressure of meeting your “ideal weight”, which is what I think you are really looking for.
A few months ago a friend of mine, who had just spent the last 8 months of her life battling cancer, received news that the cancer had spread to her brain. Luckily, she was in for surgery the next day and she has since made a very good recovery. But when I went to visit her, just prior to her surgery, the nurse came in to get her weight. And you know what she said? She said she was afraid to step onto the scale because she didn’t want to be fat. She was about to have her head cut open and a brain tumor removed but she was more concerned with being fat. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard.
Then there’s me, who 8 months ago was in a dark place, and when I go to dark places I get skinny. I’ve mentioned this many times, how strange it is that people compliment you when you are skinny and tell you how amazing you look. Who cares how depressed you are, you’re skinny, right? Well I’m not depressed anymore and I’m actually happier than I’ve been in a long time. And with that happiness comes nights out with friends, new relationships and lots of fun exercising. So I’ve put my weight back on. I look great still, but I’m a good 15 pounds over what I was when I was “skinny”.
Now in all honesty I did gain a few more pounds than I should have (on top of the 15) and for the last few weeks I’ve worked hard at trying to pull the reins back on my lifestyle. I was drinking a little less and I was taking myself out for some seriously hard mountain bike rides. Just this past Sunday I felt great. I felt strong, lean and super confident rocking my bikini. Then I stepped on a scale. My weight hadn’t budged and the girl in me that wants to be ‘skinny’ was crushed. But I had a little chat with myself, and said to myself what I am about to say to you and pushed that skinny girl away.
I get that you want to lose weight, probably more than anyone. And you probably get weird looks from friends when you tell them you are trying so hard to lose weight. It’s a struggle. I know. But life is too short to let it be overrun by a number on a scale. I’m not trying to tell you to stop striving for your body and fitness goals, but you need to get control over it because right now it is controlling you.
1500 calories a day is perfect. In fact I would say eat a bit more but considering you’ve been down as low as 800, it’s a big step up from there. Keep going to your workouts and continue to work hard and set new goals, but do it because it makes you feel good about yourself. When you push yourself past a point of comfort it gives you this incredible sense of achievement. When we feel that achievement we feel good, and feeling good about who we are leads to so many more changes.
So I’m going to tell you to try something completely different than what any trainer, or other fitness column would tell you to do. I want you to relax. I want you to download a meditation app (insight timer is my favourite) and you are going to meditate every day for at least 10 minutes. I also want you to try yoga, something hard like power or flow. Yoga will change you. You may hate it to start, but it will give you an escape from your present state of mind where you are so focused on weight loss. Having an hour in your week where all you have to concentrate on is you and your mat is pure bliss.
Keep eating like you are and working out like you are. You are not doing a thing wrong. Put your scale away, bringing it out only once per month. The weight will continue to come off, I promise you, but it will not happen overnight and you must understand you’re not defined by what the scales tells you.