Flashback Friday, Vol. III: How I got skinny the stupid way

So, last week we flashed back to what made me start changing in the first place.  This week, I’m going to explain how I lost 50 pounds in 6 months and all the stupid things I did to get there.

Like I said, I started losing weight in June 2009, and before I found anything online…I probably was losing weight the best way for my body.  For the first three weeks or so, I practiced what I now know is called “intutive eating.”  I was simply a bit lazy and not to into the whole weight loss idea yet, so I told myself I wouldn’t eat unless I was truly hungry, I’d eat smaller portions, get more fruits and veggies, and attempt some kind of exercise.  This was a very low stress way of doing things, and I think my first month I lost about four pounds.  I was tracking on FitDay off and on, and eating between 1700-1800 calories a day.

Then, in July, I found Sparkpeople.  Let me be clear: I like this website, and I think their general outlook is good, but I think there are some flaws in their system that can really screw people up if they’re not knowledgeable about finess.  Sparkpeople recommended I eat 1200-1500 calories a day.  I immediately freaked out and thought, “ohmygod, I’ve been totally pigging out before!  No wonder I’ve only lost four pounds in a month.”  Naturally, I decided 1200 calories was much better than 1500, and never, ever let myself eat more than 1250 calories a day.  At this point, I was working out six days a week, for an hour a day.  I obsessed over every tiny nibble.  Did I lose weight?  Oh, yeah.  Tons of it.  Fast.  This is me, in August 2008:

In September of 2008, I challenged myself to not take a single rest day for the entire month.  (facepalm)  Rest was bad!  I was lazy if I rested!  I achieved this awful goal and worked out every single day, either a workout DVD or running.  Sparkpeople adjusted my calorie intake up a little slightly to account for the increased exercise, but I was still eating maybe 1400 calories a day, maximum.  At this point, I was probably about 170 pounds and burning 600 calories/day through exercise, leaving my body a measly 800 calories to subsist on every day.  The calories I was getting at this point were largely processed–Special K for breakfast, Lean Cuisine and HFCS-infested yogurt for lunch–and I was eating mostly simple carbs.

This is October 2008, probably pretty close to the peak of my weight obsession:

I was addicted to two things at this point: the scale and the compliments.  Tim, I think, was a little worried about me, because I weighed myself obsessively.  Confession: Tim, you thought I only weighed myself every morning, but I was doing it probably six times a day.   Just about every time I went to the bathroom, I’d strip down and weigh myself.  The tiniest fluctuations would freak me out.  In October, he started hiding the scale from me and only letting me have it every few days, because we talked and I told him how I was feeling.

Another confession: when he was hiding the scale from me, I still weighed myself at the gym.

I was also addicted to the compliments and positive attention.  When you go from 200 pounds to 150 pounds in 6 months, people notice.  I’m a big old attention hog, which is partially why I have this blog, but I LOVED it.  I was obsessed with the idea of seeing my family for the first time at Thanksgiving and doing a “big reveal.”  I did, and everyone was impressed, and I got positive reinforcement for my unhealthy habits.  By Thanksgiving, I was running 6-7 miles a day on the treadmill, 6-7 days a week.  I didn’t cross train, I didn’t lift weights, and I didn’t really enjoy what I was doing.  I did it because I had to or, ohmygosh, I’d get fat again.  I may not be the most enthusiastic exerciser all the time now, but I do what sounds at least somewhat fun to me and I focus on the health benefits of it now rather than what burns the most calories.

Finally, and thankfully, in December of 2008 two things happened that really changed how I thought about myself.  First, I got a stress fracture in my foot from all that compulsive running, and second, I discovered and read The New Rules of Lifting for Women.  I’ll talk about how these changed my outlook on fitness on the next Flashback Friday–maybe not next week, because of Christmas, but soon.

In sum, here are the things I did wrong and I wish I’d learned at the beginning:

  • Somewhat paradoxically, your body needs food to lose weight the healthy way.  Eating too few calories for my activity level made me weak, anxious, and probably unpleasant, and led to injury.  Eating too little can stall weight loss because your body thinks it’s starving.  Sometimes, you need to eat more to lose more.  A car with no fuel won’t move, and a body with no fuel will remain similarly stagnant.
  • Weight is secondary to health.  I weigh 162-ish pounds now, but I’m stronger, happier, and healthier than I was as a 150 pound person who didn’t lift, restricted calories too much, and used exercise as punishment.  Focus on being healthy–your weight will follow.
  • Weigh yourself once a week, once every two weeks, but don’t get in the every day habit.  I thought I could handle it, but it was really, really mentally taxing.
  • Rest is just as important as exercise. Rest days are when your body builds muscle and repairs the damage exercise does.  If you just keep tearing your muscles and bones down day after day after day, you’re going to get injured.
  • Nobody’s perfect.
  • Focus on learning what your body wants and is telling you it needs rather than calorie intake in the long run.  In the beginning, yeah, I needed to count calories because my body was telling me it needed all sorts of crap it doesn’t need.  But now that I’m healthier, if my body says, “Bananas, please,” I say “Okay, body,” but if it also sometimes says  “I would very much like some pie,” I give it some, too.

What’s your “I wish I knew then what I knew now” thing?

18 Responses

  1. This is suck a great post!! I use some nutrition tracking programs for my clients, but alot of times I have to custom input the numbers because it recommends calories in such a low range. I also LOVE your theory of weighing! I personally don’t own a scale but only listen to my client’s weight every 2 weeks. The scale is the devil! These are excellent inspiring tips, girl!!! 🙂

  2. I developed an eating disorder from obsessively tracking, cutting, and burning calories (and daily weighin’s). I’m in recovery now and am happier than I was 15 pounds thinner. Thanks for your honesty in posting this, I’m sure it’s reaching an audience who needs it!

  3. This was a great post – I’m just beginning my weight-loss journey, but found this to be really inspiring. For a few weeks I was weighing myself every morning, and kicking myself for any slight fluctuation in weight (unless it went down, then I was pumped). My fiance – who is much more knowledgable about losing weight the smart way than I am – quickly squashed my daily weigh-ins and is uber supportive. I need to refine my eating habits, but I’m getting there. Obviously, this is not an overnight process, but when I read things like this I know I can get there. Thanks for this! (especially before I head home for the holidays to the plethura of food my family will be making… ughh)

  4. I think SparkPeople needs to add a disclaimer to their website because the same thing happened to me. Granted, I tend to go to the extremes in everything I do but I went from 167 pounds the day I had my first baby to 85 pounds within 7 months while following their plan! It’s just way too easy to become obsessive when you’re literally tracking every single crumb that goes into your mouth.

    Awesome post! I’m glad you found your way back from obsession. It’s a tough thing to overcome.

    • It is really heartbreaking to read their forums sometimes. There are a lot of people who think that if Sparkpeople recommends 1200 calories, they’re doing AWESOME by eating 1000. There are usually people that correct them, thankfully, but who knows if they read or take their advice?

      I wish websites like this would err on the side of a higher calorie intake–instead of 1200-1500, I bet most people would lose just as well on 1400-1700 and be a lot more satisfied!

  5. Wow! I am happy you figured out weight loss the healthy way, even though it took a stress fracture and awhile to get there. The lifestyle you were following was setting you up for failure! No one can live like that forever. Of course, you know that now 🙂

    My “I wish I knew then” is about the scale too – the number doesn’t matter at all. I fit in a smaller clothing size at a larger scale number now because I have more tone. The scale is a good tool, but you can’t take it too seriously!

  6. I very much enjoyed reading this. I feel as if I’m on a similar journey. I was successful on WW once, but when I tried it again, I felt obsessed with food and would binge a lot, because I felt “deprived”. Now I’m definitely trying to focus on eating healthy and intuitively and working out. Like you, I haven’t lost any weight. But I have so many new muscles and am in much better shape than I was 6 months ago.
    Thank you for sharing!

  7. Wow, thank you so much for sharing your story. I can relate to so much of your story. I’ve had a similar weight loss and I too fed on the compliments and used exercise as punishment. The obsessive compulsiveness and the heathly balance can be a fine line. I’m so happy you found your way to the other side. 🙂

  8. Ditto on sparkpeople.com. I’ve found the selfdietclub.com food logs to be more beneficial and more realistic in calculating the calories your body needs. I lost 40lbs following their caloric guidelines and (for the most part) didn’t feel deprived, weak, cranky, or any of the other negative emotions that I did with WW and sparkpeople. Like you, I’ve finally learned how to listen to my body and I don’t need to compulsively log food as often anymore. Compulsion is no fun.

  9. Your posts always make me think. I’m too was addicted to compliments and I never thought about it that way until I read this post. If no one said anything then I felt like I didn’t lose enough weight.

    I also felt guilty if I ate something (even if it was a salad). Then I would have to work out harder.

    There was a point where I weighed 130lbs. I am now at 155lbs and feel the healthiest I’ve ever been. I can run a 5k without walking. I couldn’t have done that at 130lbs.

    It’s funny how your mind works. Needless to say, I’m over all of that stuff and am happy with who I am.

  10. Wow… I felt like I was reading a post about ME a few years ago! crazy!
    I lost weight, not the right way and gained it back. Now I’m back on track and doing it correctly… and not obsessively counting calories or weighing myself (actually, I don’t even have a scale!)
    Thanks so much for that post!

  11. This is a very insightful post! I’ve lost weight quickly a couple of different times in my life…the first time was in grad school – I had really bad acid reflux and I ate very little b/c eating made me miserable. The second time was between my two pregnancies…I did it more healthily, by resuming exercise & tracking calories, but I was more focused on the numbers than my health. Plus, I had just stopped breastfeeding and I think I lost ~5 lbs in boobs! At this point in my life, I’m a little heavier (~170 lbs vs. 155 lbs at my acid-reflux lightest; I’m 5’10”), a lot healthier (2 half-marathons in the last year!), but I still have a long way to go w/my eating habits. I just started reading Intuitive Eating, and I’m hoping I can achieve that sort of peace w/food.

    I don’t really have a “wish I knew” with regards to health/fitness/weight management…I just wish I would have learned everything I know now a lot earlier in my life!

  12. I love reading your blog. I am completely obsessed with my scale as we speak, I need to break this bad habit!

    So glad you’re on a healthy plan now. You look gorgeous! 🙂

  13. I did the same thing with the scale. I finally had to hide it (although I brought it back once I stopped obsessing so much).

    When I was losing weight, I was consuming a ton of artificial sweeteners. I wish I knew then that they just can’t be good for you.

  14. thank you for sharing your journey, unhealthy or not! I think an issue with many people in the world is that we really do know better, but we can be impatient, impulsive and just plaing think ” that won’t happen to us” or “this must happen” … like consuming cigarettes- we know they cause cancer but people still do it.

    anyways, I am so happy to know you are back on the healthy track and that you might be finishing your invitations soon!!! 🙂 so exciting.
    I wish I was still engaged :0/
    ah well.
    happy weekend!

  15. I definitely think compliments can be addicting and lead people to do “unhealthy” things to get them. Luckily (?) not many people have noticed, or at least commented, on my 30 lb weight loss.

    “Focus on being healthy–your weight will follow.” This has sort of been “it” for me. I dropped the last 10 lbs, not by obsessing over calories or exercise, but just doing what felt good and healthy to me. I stopped weighing myself, stopped counting calories, reintroduced a lot of previously off-limit foods, and a few months later I’m suddenly 5 lbs lighter than my original goal weight.

    I wish I wasn’t so day-to-day focused when I first started. I would obsess over what I was eating over the course of a day. But weight loss and maintenance is all about what you do in a week, or month or year. You don’t eat 3500 extra calories in one day. But you CAN do it in a couple weeks. I’ve started looking at the bigger picture more often.

  16. Great post, I’ve been there before. I did this when I was in high school. Not eating enough and working out too much. I fianlly learned how to lose the right way.

  17. this is a great post! i had seriously an identical experience a few years ago. I was completely addicted to the compliments and thought running 6-7 miles a day eating only 1200 calories a day was what i was supposed to be doing. I’m so happy I’m past that part of my life (and that you are too!!) 🙂

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