reader questions

Obstacles and Motivation

I got an email from a reader who had some questions for me. I thought I’d try and address them here.

The vision that motivated me was twofold. First, I was tired of being in pain. I was having a lot of health issues (high blood pressure, pre-diabetic). My back and knees and feet hurt all the time from the extra 100 pounds. Second, I was tired of not being okay in my body. There was definitely an emotional aspect to wanting to lose weight–wanting to be skinny, wanting to be pretty, wanting a life partner some day, wanting to be able to wear cute clothes that actually fit properly. There is definitely a motivating factor in vanity, but I would say that the health issues were the #1 reason I wanted to lose weight.

The biggest obstacle? Good question. I would say there were several. The first obstacle was that the idea of losing 100 pounds was a very overwhelming number. It seemed unattainable. In order to overcome that very scary, very unrealistic goal, I decided I would start small. I was going to be a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding in one year and I wanted to lose 50 pounds by then. I worked really hard and reached that goal and then it didn’t seem so hard to lose another 50 pounds.

Another obstacle would probably be the weight loss plateaus. Those were really hard. I’d be losing weight, feeling better, getting stronger, buying clothes in smaller sizes…and then all of a sudden it would stop. I didn’t know a lot about nutrition, really, and I definitely went through phases of overexercising thinking I could just work off the weight. I see now that that was pretty disordered–like working out for 3 hours because you ate some pizza. That’s not healthy. It’s better to just recognize your mistake and do better the next day…not punish yourself!

I don’t know that I ever “failed.” Failure implies that I gave up or that I stopped trying. I was so determined and so focused on my goals that failure was not an option. I was not going to quit. Even when I hit plateaus, when my weight fluctuated up and down, I kept my eyes on the road and just kept doing what I was doing. And it worked in the end.

These days, I am definitely finding it harder to not look at my lack of weight loss post-baby as a failure. I have been very hard on myself about how difficult it has been to lose even 10 pounds. It can be discouraging and frustrating and depressing. But I am still trying. I never gave up before, and I don’t plan on quitting now.

Whenever I didn’t hit a goal before, I looked at what I was doing and tried to figure out things to I could change. I often got into ruts and switching up my diet helped. Cutting out trigger foods helped (pizza and ice cream). Changing my workouts was definitely good! I started running and fell in love with it and it was very motivating for me in terms of weight loss and just EATING BETTER. I had to re-evaluate everything I was doing to be a better runner.

Training for races helped. It helped keep me focused. It gave me a goal to work towards. It helped me stay motivated to work out. I had something to train for. Something to look forward to. That has been the #1 thing keeping me going–HAVING A GOAL (losing 50 pounds before the wedding, training for a race, etc). I think it’s better to have focused, specific goals instead of vague ideas.

So there ya go, hopefully that answered the questions!

Ask Me Anything Part 2

It’s been awhile since I did an “Ask Me Anything” Post. I get a lot of emails, usually with similar questions. I’ve answered some of the usual ones before. Here are some of the old posts:

Ask Me Anything

Busting that Plateau

Email Q and A

Challenge Your Mind

How to Count Calories

Now on to more reader questions!

I’m 17 and I weigh 205 pounds. I’m a female. When you were on your journey to losing weight, did you have a good support system? You give me hope.

To answer your question, I did have a lot of support from family and most of my friends. There were definitely people in my life that were NOT supportive and even tried to sabotage my efforts to lose weight. Those people didn’t stay in my life very long. I don’t think it’s worth it to keep people in your life that aren’t going to bring something GOOD to your world. The emotional vampires, the self-centered people that are just your friend when they need something from, the person that breaks you down instead of building you up…who needs that in your life? Life is short and that time should be spent with positive people that enrich your existence.

I think what helped me when it was time to lose weight was that I’d been overweight for so long that my family and close friends were concerned for my health and they were happy to see that I was making a legitimate effort to lose the weight. Once the weight started to come off, I got even more support. It definitely helped keep me motivated when things got hard. Having positive re-enforcement from people around me helped me make better choices.

Don’t give up. Trust me when I tell you it is so much easier to lose the weight when you’re younger than when you are older!

lisa-eirene

I’m a new listener to Half Size Me (loving it!) and I recently listened to Lisa’s episode, which was so motivating and interesting.  In it, Lisa mentioned that she has read a lot of weight loss memoirs and that got me wondering—can you share what some of the best weight loss memoirs are that you’ve read?

Here are a few of my favorites:
The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl” by Shauna Reid

Passing for Thin” by Frances Kuffel
Half-Assed” by Jennette Fulda
The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life” by Wendy Shanker

When you swim, how often do you breathe and do you only breathe on one side?

When I swim at the gym I get a lot of comments and questions from people when I’m done. Sometimes it’s when I’m relaxing in the hot tub, but usually it’s in the steam room when I finish up my workout. The most common question I get is how far I swim and how do I keep track of laps? I usually swim a 1.25 miles, sometimes 1.5 miles. I’ve gotten pretty good at counting the laps as I swim. I can do it without even thinking about it. Sometimes if I do space out and forget my laps, it’s no big deal because I generally swim 45-50 minutes at a time and so I can guesstimate how far I’ve swum because of the time.

When I swim I usually breathe 2-4 times in one length of the pool. That might not seem like much, but keep in mind that I’ve had to work for that. When I first started swimming I had to breathe a LOT more often in order to make it to the other side of the pool. As I got more fit, lost weight and became an efficient swimmer I didn’t need to breathe as often and I can often hold my breathe for the entire length of the pool.

If you are just starting out with a swimming workout don’t put too much pressure on yourself about the breathing. Breathe as often as you need to and honestly, you should probably take a breathe BEFORE you think you need it. Until you get good at it. The better you get at swimming, the less you will have to breathe while you do it. Also, if you hold your breathe for too long, that will actually wear you out quicker and your muscles will fatigue and make it seem a lot harder to swim than it really is. So build up to it slowly. Listen to your body and you’ll get there.

As for the breathing. When I learned to swim as a kid they did not teach bilateral breathing. After I learned how to swim the new “thing” was to teach breathing on both sides but it was too late for me. It felt unnatural and no matter how much I try to do it (even now I still sometimes try to retrain myself to breathe on both sides) I can’t do it. My neck and back muscles just don’t work that way when I’m in the pool and I end up floundering and sputtering and will probably drown. 🙂

BilateralBreathing

When or how do you go from wtf am I doing to gee, I enjoy the gym?

Good question! When I first decided to lose weight I started swimming a few times a week. For one month (I hadn’t started counting my calories yet, and I hadn’t weighed myself either) I went swimming about 3 days a week. It was really, really hard. I was fat, out of shape, slow, and could barely swim to the other end of the pool. Once I got to the other end of the pool I had to rest for a bit before swimming back. I’d say this was the case for a few months. Once I was swimming consistently 3-4 days a week (probably around 30 minutes each time), the less I had to rest before swimming back the length. It just took some time. The better I got, the easier it was to breathe while swimming and the less I had to rest. Once I got to the point where I could swim the length of the pool and not have to rest before swimming back I LOVED it. I felt proud and excited that I was seeing obvious progress. I think seeing progress and being able to tell I was GETTING BETTER made it fun and easier to stick to it.

I made goals for myself. Things like, “I want to swim 5 laps without having to rest.” Then it was, “I want to swim half a mile without having to stop.” Each landmark I reached made it easier to push myself further. That first time I swam 1 mile without having to stop to rest I felt like I’d won the lottery. I was SO HAPPY!

So to answer your question, in my experience I enjoyed the gym once the activity I was doing got easier. Short answer: I’d say about 2 months.

I kept at it, I practiced everything and set goals for myself. Reaching the goals made me proud and I enjoyed going to the gym. Not only that, the endorphins from exercising improved my moods and I started to get addicted to that “high” from exercising. To this day, I know that the exercise high is a big part of what keeps me going to the gym. I notice the significant difference between my moods on exercise days versus rest days. This is a natural stress-reliever and anti-depressant for me, so I stick with it!

Finally, I think it’s VERY important to pick an activity that you like and will stick with. If you hate running, don’t start running. If you have knee issues, maybe cycling is a better option. Hate the gym? Try taking your workout outside and go hiking or play tennis. Basically find something that give you joy and you’ll stick with it!

Do you have any questions I can answer? Ask away!