Letting go of the Plan

I have been sitting here pondering how to convey what has happened the last 9 months without writing a long, boring novel about potato chips and cheese. It’s hard to succinctly state the difference in my way of thinking now vs then. I came away from Dr. Oz anticipating THE PLAN that was going to be my key. I was awaiting detailed instructions regarding what to eat, how to work out, and a long list of things I couldn’t have.

For more than two decades, I have embraced one diet plan after another with varying degrees of sort-term success. I have enumerated them in the past, so suffice it to say I have tried them all. I can count the number of weeks I was truly happy with my body on one hand. Sometimes there were days or weeks or months between diets, but I’ve never felt like I was being “good” unless I was on a diet. Some were healthy and some were downright dangerous. When I was “off plan” it was an excuse to eat poorly because it might be the last time I ever had that food again. That’s the mentality that took me from a frustrated 18 year old with less than 10 lbs to lose, to morbid obesity in my 30’s.

You don’t realize what a crutch your behavior is until you try and change it. Those first weeks after the show I was so anxious, I felt lost. Juicing had been my go-to for 3 years. When I’d get frustrated enough with my weight, I’d just give up solid food and juice for week or 2 or 16. Before that it was rounds of HCG combines with super low calorie sprints for a year or so. Before that was raw food for about 4 years.You get the picture. At some point, I had  moved beyond balanced meal plans and normal diets and into extreme plans for about 10 years. Being off-plan and not having a course in mind was disorienting to me.

Then I started talking with the psychologist that appeared on the show with me, Dr. Brenda Wade. She didn’t want to talk to me about food or diets or exercise either. We talked about things like gratitude and forgiveness. She helped me believe that it was good to take care of myself. There was a lot to it, but that was the biggest shift in thinking for me.

I had a few sessions with the show-provided nutritionist and it seemed too easy. She wasn’t going to tell me what to eat either. She said “have what you want, just make wise choices”. She had me prepare my plate and sit down for a few moments before I ate. To consider if what I was about to eat was going to make me feel better or worse, if it fit into the plan I was designing for myself.  I started think less about what I was going to eat or not eat.

I learned that I could literally have whatever I wanted. When I removed those restrictions from my own mind, and stopped believing I was “off-plan”, all of a sudden the poor choices were a lot less appealing. I didn’t want it because I could have it whenever I wanted. Food, especially the things I had tended to binge on in the past, lost its appeal. I didn’t want that second slice of cheese, because it would just make me feel over-full. I didn’t think twice about the open bag of potato chips because I was already full. Food lost the power it had had over me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat. I can take apart a rib-eye like nobody’s business, and my love affair with all things cheese remains fully in play. But I splurge when I want to, not every day. I do it for special dinners or for parties. Sometimes I do it for no reason. But that’s not the norm. I choose to eat mostly whole foods, lots of fruits and veggies and proteins. I also accomplished something I had never done. I maintained my weight for 6 months.

In a lot of ways, that was difficult. Seeing the scale not move was new territory. I got comfortable with it. Not happy with my weight, but comfortable knowing I was in control and not slave to some on-off switch anymore.

By February, I felt stabilized enough to start making some progress on my weight again. Based on the amount I was eating, I knew scientifically-calories in vs calories out, I should have been losing a pound or two a week, and I wasn’t.  I decided to go to a naturopath and find out what might be wrong at that would cause me to not lose weight.

Like most people in my past, I think he was skeptical when I claimed that I was certain my calories were low enough that I should be losing weight. I came prepared, providing him with a few weeks of food logs detailing every bite. He ran a gamut of tests; allergies, diabetic panel, cholesterol, adrenals. I don’t even remember them all. I left hopeful that there would be an answer I could point to and move forward.

I was remarkably healthy. Nothing was wrong. Other than being ridiculously overweight all my numbers looked phenomenal. The only minor exception was that my thyroid medication (which I have been on for several years) needed to be adjusted slightly. He gave me some supplements that would combat any insulin resistance issues and scheduled a re-test of the thyroid 4 weeks later.

April rolled around I was still sitting at the same weight within a few pounds. I wanted to start exercising, but I was so big that its very, very difficult. I have plantar fasciitis on both feet, so even a walking regimen left me crippled up for a few days. Same thing with my elliptical. I knew from the past that if I dropped about 30 lbs, my heels would not bother me that much, but I couldn’t figure out how to get to that point without a drastic diet- and I was done with that. I completed a few half-hearted workouts at home, with not a lot of enthusiasm.  

Then one day in late April, I was driving home and saw that a Crossfit box had opened up a couple miles from my house. I have had a secret obsession with Crossfit athletes for several years. I have vowed that when I got small enough, that would be something I would do. If you know what Crossfit is, you know why I would think it impossible for someone like me to participate in it. If you don’t know what it is, imagine combining weight-lifting with gymnastics and running, and then speeding it all up. I’d admired Crossfit athletes because I LOVE the shape of their bodies. I love that they look lean and strong. I love how capable they are. So I did the craziest thing possible and signed up.

I spent some time with the owners beforehand to go over all my concerns. They assured me that the workouts could be scaled down to what I was actually capable of doing, while still allowing me to challenge myself. I had no idea…

My journey to being fit and healthy is on a completely different track than I’ve ever taken. The progress is painstakingly slow, but it’s still progress. I am committed to journaling again from this point forward.

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