So I know I've danced around the "I LOST WEIGHT!" topic a bit. I've mentioned it but haven't really gone into any specifics since I wrote about our grown-up behavior chart, which was...Jesus, last JULY.
I was down about 10 pounds then; I've since dropped another 15.
I'm now really and truly back to my "pre-pregnancy" weight -- and I'm talking the FIRST pregnancy, 10 years ago. It's a good weight, a comfortable weight, and smack dab in the middle of the healthy weight range for my height and frame size. (I am made of Bird Bones.)
After I posted that photo on the Social Media Thingies this weekend, a few people asked me to share the How.
It's sadly, nothing extraordinary, earth-shattering, nor guaranteed to get you a bikini-ready body in 30 days. I have no magic bullet or snake-oil supplement or One Weird Trick to share here.
I lost 25 pounds because:
1) I ate less.
2) I exercised more.
3) And I kept doing these things even after I hit my weight loss goals, and moved gradually into a maintenance plan. A maintenance plan that STILL involves eating less and exercising more, compared to my old habits.
Okay, I can definitely add 4) the Get-Off-Your-Ass Chart, which was our big initial motivator, and 5) my husband, who was totally IN THIS with me. We kept each other accountable, we cheered each other's success, we sympathized with each other's frustrations, and the occasional ARGH I JUST GAINED BACK FIVE POUNDS INEXPLICABLY WHAT THE FUUUUUCK.
(Jason has lost 35 pounds, even after packing on a ton of muscle through weightlifting. Now I have always found him super attractive [OBVS] no matter what he weighed, but even I gotta admit dayum, y'all, boy looks gooooood.)
We did not follow any specific diet plan or fad or brand; we focused on correcting our individual bad habits and replacing them with new habits we believed we could sustain long term. So far, so good.
The rest of this post is long and probably quite boring, especially if you find diet talk tedious. So here, I'll put it behind the extend-o-link for anyone who wants to read on, and everybody else can just look at this photo of a Stormtrooper hanging from a refrigerator magnet before heading elsewhere:
What I Changed
My relationships with food and my weight have not always been great. I had an eating disorder in my teens and continued to struggle with bouts of disordered eating in my early 20s before finally meeting the right therapist and working through it once and for all. I learned to LOVE food and made peace with my normal-looking body.
There was NO WAY I was going to return to that pattern of deprivation, but I have to admit that being an overweight former anorexic is a...strange thing. When I did try to lose weight, I would gravitate more towards crash diets and unrealistic timeframe expectations. Sure, I could drink nothing but juice for three days or eliminate ALL THE CARBS for a couple weeks and maybe drop some weight in time for a vacation. Where I would promptly reward myself with everything I'd deprived myself of, then pack all those pounds back on, and probably a few more for good measure.
When I finally stopped fitting in the jeans I bought to replace my old jeans that I bought to replace my pre-pregnancy jeans, and then hit a number on the scale that was like, NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE, I realized that yeah, I ABSOLUTELY had to make some changes, I also needed to COMMIT to those changes. So those changes had to be realistic.
When I was in prime hardcore weight loss mode, these were the changes I focused on:
1) Exercise every day, cardio and/or strength, for however long I could spare that day. Again, not exactly an earth-shattering concept. But I did try to avoid the lofty goals of working out for super-long periods of time, and considered any exercise time a victory.
If I had a whole hour, awesome. But if I only had 15 minutes before my next conference call or had to leave to pick up a child from school...welp. I would put that 15 minutes to good use and hop on the treadmill. (As opposed to say, dicking around on the Internet or playing Candy Crush.) It still counted.
I am not a gym person. My time with my family is crazy important and already too limited. So we have a treadmill and Jason bought a weight set and bench/bar on Craigslist so we could work out at home. He gets up early to work out in the morning, I typically exercise when all my coworkers break for lunch, and then shower and eat lunch back at my desk. I also have a set of exercises I can do right in my office if I'm crunched for time...or if I'm just feeling kinda antsy and need a little activity to break up all the sitting. I find a quick circuit of squats, chair dips and planks is surprisingly effective for both building strength and combating writer's block/focus problems.
2) Portion control, portion control, PORTION CONTROL. I love food. I love all food.
I was eating entirely too damn much food.
My calorie intake was insane, especially for how sedentary I was back then. So I counted calories and aimed to keep my meals around the 500 calorie mark. This put the crazy portions I was eating (at home but particularly at restaurants) into really harsh focus, along with all the empty calories I was consuming via crap like soda and Boredom Snacking.
Once I started paying attention, I realized I was eating way past the "satisfied, can survive just fine until next meal" mark pretty much all the time. I no longer do this, even when it comes to "splurges" or eating at restaurants. Doggy bag, please!
(This has the added benefit of solving quite a few gastrointestinal problems that I blamed on specific types of food, rather than, OH GOLLY GEE, the fact that I was just overstuffing myself all the time.)
3) Watch the trigger foods. I've gone no-carb countless times. It ain't gonna work for me, especially if I'm trying to fuel an effective workout. BUT. I did cut back drastically on carbs, and stuck mainly with the complex varieties.
That's never something you want to hear -- oh, just swap the white rice with quinoa! Order the turkey burger without the bun! Make a salad instead of a sandwich! Eat nuts instead of chips!
But that's what I did. No fried foods, no pasta, saying no thank you to the bread basket. Lean protein and vegetables, whole grains only, in moderation. No fast food or frozen processed crap. I learned to love quinoa and tolerate bunless turkey burgers. If I needed a snack I ate almonds instead of handfuls of Goldfish or potato chips.
I also cut out refined sugar, more or less completely. This wasn't nearly as difficult as I was expecting: Turns out my salty/carb cravings are much more of a problem than my sweet tooth. Sweets are something I tend to eat more out of boredom or stress, and stopping to ask myself, "It's 10 p.m. Am I really hungry for some leftover Halloween candy or should I maybe just go to bed and have some fruit in the morning instead?" usually helped curb the temptation. If I'm going to have sugar now, it's gonna be something really and truly worth it, like my BFF's out-of-this-world homemade brownies, rather than soda or crap from a vending machine.
(Although HAHAHAHA no, I did not give up alcohol. I HAVE MY LIMITS TO WHAT I CAN TAKE. I did give up beer and calorie/sugar-laden cocktail mixers. I now mostly drink red wine, vodka with lime and carbonated water [we have a SodaStream but skip the syrups], or a nice brown rye/whiskey/bourbon on the rocks or chilling stones.)
I am no longer THAT restrictive with calories, carbs and sugar, by the way, now that I'm in maintenance mode. I would say I am still very mindful about my carbs -- they're a trigger for overeating/portion problems for me because I will eat the shit out of an entire thing of fries even if I'm not hungry. Then I crash and feel sick and sleepy and skip my workout.
This will likely always be true for me. Carbs aren't "bad," but they bring out some bad habits, so I'm careful around them. Alas.
4) Daily weight checks, with accountability. Jason and I didn't buy FitBits, and we both fell in and out of love with various workout/food diary apps so I can't really claim any of them were a huge driving force for us...but we did get a body fat scale. We weighed ourselves every single day, usually first thing in the morning or post-workout. We would then tell each other our numbers and report both good and bad results.
I know for some people this is hugely de-motivating, and focusing too much on the scale can make you miss the big picture, but it really worked for us. Jason started dropping weight almost immediately (GRUMBLE), while it took longer for me to see changes. But then once the numbers started moving down, my progress sped up and every few days was cause for celebration -- even it it was just half a pound or a few ounces.
The daily weight checks also helped me really see what bad habits had the most impact -- one weekend splurge on fried foods and beer could undo an entire week's progress, while a nice brunch and a Bloody Mary wouldn't mess things up so much. Late night meals or snacking ALWAYS made things worse the next day. Skipping even short workouts MATTERED. Eventually, I just started making better choices in advance because I was tired of being annoyed at the scale (and/or myself).
5) Eat like somebody's watching, because they are. I wasn't going to sit there at the dinner table feeding my kids one thing while I picked at some kale salad. I didn't want the boys to even be aware that Mom and Dad were on diets -- I don't think we ever said that word out loud, or discussed our weight loss around them.
We talked about our workouts and exercise plans, though, and tried to model good, healthy eating habits around them. We ate a lot more fish and lean meats, made at least one vegetarian meal every week, swapped whole grain sides instead of white rice or pasta, etc. (Blue Apron really has been a godsend in this regard.) We put less of a focus on "cleaning your plate" but instead encourage everybody to try everything on their plate because each item is nutritionally important, but it's also okay to stop eating once you're full.
Now Amy, About That Tummy Tuck...
So. Yes. I got a tummy tuck in December. Can't dodge that topic anymore.
The standard abdominoplasty procedure does not really produce much weight loss. It's about one to three pounds, depending on how much extra skin gets removed. I was actually nervous that I'd gain weight afterwards, since I'd be on a strict no-exercise order for six weeks...six weeks that included the holidays. GAH.
I needn't have worried. For the first two weeks I barely felt like eating ANYTHING, oh my God, and mostly lived on chicken soup and smoothies. Then there was the weird realization that I simply couldn't eat that much without immediately feeling overfull and bloated. Portion control took care of itself for a good long while, and I still feel like I can't really eat as much as I used to without getting kinda...ugh, yuck. I'd say I've lost about eight pounds since the surgery, a combo of a couple pounds of skin loss and sticking with my diet plan pretty well over the past few months.
(Business travel, though. Yikes. Not the easiest thing to get through without putting some absolute garbage food in your facehole.)
Working out post-surgery has been frustrating -- my ab muscles are still numb in places, so it's really hard to know if I'm overdoing it until suddenly there's PAIN. But after going through the whole ordeal (and LOVING the results, yes, not gonna lie), you DAMN WELL BETTER BELIEVE I'm not messing things up with gaining weight back, or being out of shape everywhere else. I definitely gave back some fitness/muscle gains since the surgery though, so that's been my current focus, rather than the scale.
I actually first consulted with cosmetic surgeons over a year ago, at almost my highest weight. They all recommended liposuction in addition to the tummy tuck, which, guuuuuhhhh. By the time I finally committed to getting the surgery done (aka saved up the monies), I'd lost so much weight that lipo was no longer needed. They did need to take new "before" photos, however.
Imagine a photo of you in your underwear, in the harsh light of the doctor's office. It's everything from your neck down to your thighs at various angles (front, side, seated). They're certainly not designed to be flattering, but I remember thinking mine hadn't turned out too hideously.
I was stunned. I didn't recognize myself. I did not look good. And I know for a fact that I was not healthy, either -- I'm a HUGE believer in the fit/healthy at any size movement but I was a textbook case of someone who wasn't plus-sized (I wore a size 6), but was still treating her particularly body type like crap, and it showed.
It just...didn't even register that that had been my body, and that I'd been mostly pretty okay with it at the time, other than the baby pooch. I could feel the complacency and laziness emanating from the computer screen.
And that's the thing. If you'd told the me of over a year ago that YES, you are going to lose 25 pounds, but it's going to take time, and you're going to have to make a lot of changes, and you're going to have to stick to those changes...I probably would have given up before I even started.
Meanwhile, on the other side, I want to yell at the woman in those old "before" photos: WORTH IT. WORTH IT WORTH IT YOU CAN DO IT,
(Only downside: NONE of my clothes fit anymore and I have to buy all new clothes. Tragic!)