Dog Tired: The Ugly Truth About Weight Loss in My Forties
This blogpost is almost 5,300 words long so it may have to be read in segments. That’s okay, because it was crafted in segments. A little over ten weeks ago I set out on a disciplined journey to lose 20 pounds over the two-month summer break I have off from teaching school. I did everything mostly the way you’re supposed to and miraculously, I finished all the way to the end.
This story will not contain methods that everyone, or anyone, would recommend. The purpose of documenting my thoughts as I went through this was to do all the hard work for you, in the event that your weight is something you also constantly obsess about, like I do. Secondly, I need my journals to remind me that I really did try my very best.
Haven’t we all said, If I Weren’t So Busy, If I Didn’t Have Kids, If My Husband Helped More, etc…what could we all accomplish under the ‘perfect’ conditions for losing weight. Well, I had the perfect conditions and I played by the rule book. Here, I am simply telling my story about that journey.
I had three simple rules: Limit my calories, drink lots of water and exercise every single day for at least an hour, for ten weeks straight.
I had to pee 13 times today from all the water I made myself drink this week. Who has time for this? I’m also supposed to eat SIX small meals each day but see, ‘older’ people (like me) who have been fighting weight gain for ten plus years have gone to a lot of trouble to not eat so much, and I certainly can’t eat six times a day! (If you are, perhaps there’s the problem right there.) Yet, everyone says that “grazing” will boost my metabolism and eating constantly throughout the day will keep my body from hoarding calories. This makes absolutely no sense to me.
So the day after school got out last week I went to the empty weight room at my high school, accompanied by my hired trainer. I finished the first circuit of various exercises (50 stomach crunches, 50 barbell curls, 10 girl pushups, 25 leg curls and 25 of the things where you push the weights forward with your legs, plus 5 minutes on the elliptical) just as my head started spinning. It was hard. I couldn’t even finish the 2nd circuit. Then, some deep level of hell created something called Mountain Climbers and the young lady I am paying to hang out with me likes to make me do them. They kicked my ass rather quickly, and I tapped out. I had to stop because I literally could not do them. I fell down walking home because I couldn’t lift my foot over the high grass. I crawled to the fence to get help up. Nobody saw me, I don’t think. I am not kidding about falling down. Then I slept for an hour, sweaty and gross, in my clean bed even though I smelled bad.
I did this for six days straight, never missing a single day. It just totally sucks, there’s no other way to put it. I am too young to feel so old and I hate getting bigger and weaker with age. Most of all, I loathe exercising. I can hardly type this entry even now because my arms don’t really work.
Still, I hate how I look in a bathing suit even more. It’s the Internal Conflict of my generation.
I am eating raw fruits and vegetables two or three times a day, plus pasta salad, cheese, deli meat and eggs. That’s about it. I’m logging about 1,000 calories a day.
Weight: 160.7 (this is the biggest I’ve ever been in my life, even bigger than when I was pregnant)
I now think I’m thirsty for water even when I’m probably not. I am drinking 2 liters of water a day now, effortlessly. You do kind of start to want water once you make a habit of drinking it. I now carry a large Yeti of water with me everywhere, like it’s another arm, and I refill this multiple times a day no matter where I am.
I make myself exercise every day even though I never WANT to exercise. Listen to me…I *hate* it, but I do it. I self-talk about all the pictures of myself that make me cringe and it motivates me for the two minutes it takes to get my running shoes on. Some days it’s weights with my trainer, Kelsey; 3 sets of 20 is my new war chant. Other days I stretch and do yoga all by myself while I watch Breaking Bad. Other days I get on the elliptical in the high school’s weight room at 9:00 at night so no one will see me, when I would rather just take a shower and go to bed. Right now I can only do 15 minutes of cardio (and that means walking-running-resting-walking-running-resting) without my legs collapsing underneath me. I want to get to 30. I spend the rest of my hour lifting weights and doing the crunches and other excersizey nonsense. By the way, doing crunches makes me pee myself. Childbirth damage, I guess. I’m not proud of it, but still, I do not miss a day.
I am still taking in about 1,000 calories a day and I am almost to the point where I can do this food-math in my head. I am grazing like I am supposed to and I spend insane amounts of time standing at the bar in my kitchen making myself eat cut watermelon and sliced cucumbers. I do not eat after 7 pm.
Still, I am not losing any weight and it’s making me very f*cking sad and frustrated. I have started meal replacement protein shakes (THIS ONE is my favorite) during the week for two of my three daily meals (because I hear I need protein) plus something raw and colorful for one meal, with water, of course. It’s not satisfying at all; I would rather go to the new Five Guys in town but I did not cave to the temptation.
I started figuring out this week that eating six meals a day was a habit I was never going to be able to establish. I might as well make myself into an alcoholic on purpose. The most I was able to do was four and I wasn’t into it even then. Too much eating. Constant eating. It’s counter-intuitive to everything I’ve been teaching myself to do since adulthood. Ug!
My teenage son was gone all week which made all of this minimal-calories malarkey even possible…the veggie snacking, the cut fruit salads, the protein shakes… all made possible because I was home alone all week. Not cooking heavy meals for a big family and not having Doritos in the house for kids who snack like it’s their job is the single biggest boost to my discipline.
Living with men is counter-productive to eating small, healthy meals.
But today, there is a man in my house again and he wants 5,000 calories worth of fatty, heavy, junky supper in his belly. Plus, since he is 16 and growing, I know he needs all of it. Problem is, I don’t. Since he walked though the door at 2:00, I finished the last 3 or 4 of his french fries that he brought home and I then went to the store for groceries for him, food that that I like but can’t eat: milk, cereal, Pringles and the ingredients for the heaping plate of homemade spaghetti that he wants for dinner tonight, which sounds awful delicious to me, too. There was a box of pop tarts that sat in the pantry ALL week while he was gone and I never touched them until he got home and only wanted one of them. I ate the other one.
In spite of a deep tissue sports massage and a visit to the chiropractor, I have been sore and hurting every single day of my summer vacation so far. I want to cry every day.
I am so tired of being sore. I have been achy and hurting every. single. day. since I got out of school for the summer. I dipped into an old prescription of Percocet from a 2009 knee surgery just so I could sleep on my shoulders.
I am not hungry very often but I am *unsatisfied* all the time. The things I’ve been eating on this diet don’t please me because I love to feel full after eating. Who doesn’t? That feeling of satisfaction I get from eating a real meal, even if it’s just a sandwich, rarely lasts because I just hate myself if I eat that much now. There’s all this guilt I bring on myself. So, I stick to tiny meals… tiny, bland, healthy meals.
I am still working out every day, but if I cut the back yard (which takes an hour) or walk the dog briskly around the high school (for an hour), I think it counts. If I am sweating, I call it exercising. Strangely, I enjoy it sometimes (once I’m there) and l will admit that I don’t dread working up a sweat like I used to. It’s sort of like running errands in town now. I like the satisfaction of marking the box off my daily to-do list. Once I get there, I push myself just a little further than the time before but I never make myself do sets or circuits that I hate anymore. No more Mountain Climbers or Burpies for me because those suck. I feel ridiculous, I am not good at them, and they make me want to quit all the way around. Therefore, I gave myself permission to choose circuits (or chores) that are actually tolerable and then I work my ass of on those. Some days, 45 minutes of yoga at home is good enough for me although my inner critic says anything besides cardio isn’t going to count. I hate that voice. Many days, I just make myself wash the car and pull weeds in the 95 degree heat, as long as I’m stretching my muscles out and getting dirty. Another time I attended a full hour of overhead barbell lifting. I hope that one day soon, the achiness in my bones and the soreness in my muscles will dissipate. Contrary to what you might think, exercise in the weight room makes it so that I do not sleep so well.
Still, the weight has not fallen off like I hoped. To be honest, when Old Me hit this same wall in the past, I’d already be done. Color me Fed Up. But I believe in my heart I can create a different ending to this saga. I’m doing everything right, right? I think I’ll start seeing results any day now, right?
It’s the one area of my life I seem to lack control over and I can’t let it beat me. It is heartbreaking at this point (I am starting my 4th week) not to have dropped more weight but not so much so that I’m ready to waste all the work I’ve put in already by giving up and going back to my old ways.
I’ve stayed with it now longer than I ever have in the past.
Here’s what I focus on instead:
I love that I drink a lot of water.
I love that I rarely eat fast food. If I do, it’s the only thing I eat all day.
I love that I don’t drink sodas anymore. If I did, though, they would be zero calories Diet colas.
I love that I feel stronger than I did a month ago.
Is weight loss still the ultimate goal? Yes, it is. I’m in this for the numbers, not gonna lie. But in the meantime, until I can figure out what I’m missing here, I am forcing myself to be content with the small wins.
I cried more last week than I’ve cried in perhaps the last year combined. I’ve definitely hit an emotional impasse. In the absence of any sort of positive reinforcement (the kind I want, at least) I had two moments during the week when I behaved badly and went to Burger King for a big, loaded cheeseburger. Nothing I am doing is working and I am mad. In those weak moments, I was just plain hungry. That number on the scale wasn’t moving. My clothes were still tight. Why not?
Those two cheeseburgers didn’t change anything, either. I didn’t wake up the next day ten pounds heavier because of them, then on that next day, I realized I didn’t want another cheeseburger because I didn’t feel so great after eating them. That stuff really is garbage and when you’ve cleaned your body of it, you can tell the difference in how you digest food. I actually craved my regular, healthy food again. It was back to the water and back to the veggies and the light, unsatisfying meals. Whaddaya know, I have new habits now.
I went to a rowing class on Saturday and I loved it. An hour in the sun at noon in 100 degree weather in Florida was not where you normally find me. It felt so much better than being in the weight room and it was much more fun than laying mulch. It was another kind of activity that I’d never experienced before. Bonus: I was pretty good at it too, because my arms are actually strong enough to row from lifting all the weights!
Still, when I got home, my scale read +2 pounds. WTF? I haven’t been to the weight room in almost a week but everyday I find something that works up a sweat and makes me sleep well. I walk my dogs about a mile, I cut the front and back yard with a push mower, or I do yoga, and then I cry because I haven’t lost any weight. But, at least since stopping the weights I finally sleep better, although I still hurt all over.
Almost my entire liquid intake is water now, I never thought I’d be that person. I am still staying under 1000 calories a day, even on the days I had those two rogue cheeseburgers.
I went to a local restaurant and ordered a regular meal that I ate, perhaps, five bites of. Then I was full, and I let that be good enough. Instead of feeling like I needed to finish it, I stopped when I felt satisfied.
Restaurant portions really are entirely too large!
I read a book about a fictional time (post nuclear war) in which people were surviving on what they had immediately around them (fish from the rivers and veggies from their gardens, etc) and it was apparent that everyone in that society was living on hundreds of calories a day instead of thousands. Everyone was trimmer, fitter, leaner. I am no doctor and I am no nutrition expert but I believe my experience has shown that we have been conditioned over the decades to behave like fatties. We don’t “need” two or three thousand calories a day if we aren’t athletes living extremely strenuous lives. Waking up and putting your clothes on, going to a regular day of work or running errands for a few hours does NOT mandate three full meals a day. That’s just eating out of habit. I am seeing everything about American food intake through a spectrum of disgust. Our lives shouldn’t revolve around eating the way they do.
I took a week off from all of the diet and exercise nonsense, I mean ALL of it, so this is actually Week 6 in my journey, but still only Week 5 of the regimen. Anyway, here’s my big news: I let myself off the hook for the last 7 days, meaning I have not exercised in any way in a week. I didn’t want my bones to hurt anymore, my shoulders, my legs, my arms…everything has been hurting for so long so I just decided to rest my body for a hot minute. Getting old is no joke.
Nonetheless, I pretty much maintained my otherwise regular eating habits. I am still teetering around 1000 calories a day. In fact, I’ve eaten a few handfuls of Doritos, and even put mayonnaise on my sandwiches this week when I wanted to (a delicious tomato sandwich…yum!). What I didn’t do this week was resort back to eating three or more times everyday, eating because it was “time to eat”(you know…breakfast TIME, lunch TIME, and dinner TIME), and I had zero heavy meals that left me stuffed as a tick, and oh, also…still no eating late at night.
I am down a few pounds. I don’t know why. When I weighed yesterday morning, I couldn’t hide the shock on my face either. This is when a degree in nutrition would really come in handy. It just doesn’t make any sense to eat things I always thought I wasn’t supposed to eat and still lose weight. Nevertheless, the weight came off, just a little. I am down again today.
I am back up a few pounds and I am attributing it to beginning my period. I am ravenous each time I start my cycle but in the past I have given in to the urges and easily could polish off a tube of Pringles in one sitting. I didn’t do that this time. I have remained disciplined about my eating choices: I still choose small healthy meals, usually only one real plate of food per day and the rest of my daily 1,000 calories come from snacks or protein shakes. I enjoy things like mayo on my sandwich and jelly on my toast once in awhile, but again, everything is tiny in portion size. I have had Gatorade this week because it’s ten million degrees outside, but I still drink water almost exclusively. I am not going to the gym or the weight room anymore because clearly that (1) did not work and (2) actually made me hurt all over and not sleep well, every single day.
I see on my Facebook the number of women I know, of ALL ages, starting new weight loss programs. I’ve been where they are a million times. Some have spent hundreds of dollars on gym memberships. Some programs last 14 days, some last 60 days, and then there are programs everywhere in between. Some are using gadgets like Fitbits, some are running or walking, some are doing weight training. I shake my head and think to myself, “You are all wasting your time.” I have done all of these in quick succession in the last month and a half, with discipline and rigor, and I now can argue with authority that at these most basic levels, even a strict diet and daily exercise will not render sizable weight loss in a woman my age. I believe minimal weight loss is possible, but I am now convinced that you would have to (1) starve yourself (and believe me, I have come close) (2) work out for multiple hours a day doing strictly cardio or (3) take prescription diet pills.
I have visited a doctor about this. I have researched diet pills and the use of waist trainers. In the absence of satisfactory results using just diet and daily exercise, I felt desperate to explore more extreme ideas. I am now open to alternative measures such as these, but in my research, these things come with significant risk and I am not yet ready to commit to them. I have learned that diet pills (both the kind you buy at Walgreens and the kind you get from a doctor) are both appetite suppressants. I don’t need to suppress my appetite anymore than it already is. If I go down to 500 calories, I’ve achieved nothing more than an eating disorder. Plus, there are extreme side effects to diet pills, including racing heart and shortness of breath. I have looked into the use of waist trainers and supposedly these are also unhealthy, but at least with one of those I can eat and not have a heart attack, right? Maybe I will try this, I don’t know. I am at a loss. I wish I had better news for anyone who struggles with these things, too. I wish I were reporting to you that a few beautiful salads and a circuit at the gym each day in a cute new outfit was enough to earn enviable results, 20 pounds gone!…but that just has not been my experience AT ALL.
I kept my appointment to see a doctor about diet pills even knowing, as I reported above, that an appetite suppressant isn’t exactly what I need. She concurred, and she became yet another person who seemed alarmed about my low caloric intake. But you know, I clearly remember hearing my parents say the same thing about themselves and about my grandparents. Isn’t it true that we eat less as we age? My parents don’t even order their own meals at restaurants anymore. They always share one plate. I maintain my belief that making myself eat when I’m not hungry just doesn’t make sense and eating just because “it’s time to eat” is the reason most people are overweight. I tell my doctor this as she stares at me with raised eyebrows.
So back to what happened at the visit. We talked about how much I eat, my age, my unsuccessful efforts thus far to shed pounds. Predictably, she made the comment that I look great for my age, blah, blah, blah, and that I am not by any definition ‘overweight.’ I expected it. But then I raised my blouse for her, to reveal the flank steak around my middle, that rubber tire I carry with me everywhere, the one that pours ever so grossly over the top of my pants. She nodded, then made the comment, “I bet you aren’t overweight anywhere else but there, are you?” She is correct. The boobs are good, legs are toned, stomach is tolerably semi-flat. It’s just those damn love handles. She tried to be kind to my ego while also telling me I was not getting diet pills from her. I let her off the hook by admitting that I didn’t expect that she would be able to help me, but that I didn’t want to waste the appointment I’d made two months prior. Then she said she had an idea…Glucophage.
Now, let me interject here that I already complain to my friends that I have a cataract. And I do. Now this doctor wanted to try me on Diabetes medicine. I felt absolutely ancient at the exact moment she suggested it but apparently, Glucophage (or Metformin) aids in processing sugar, in the simplest terms. She suggested that research hints that it helps in weight loss and for $2.24 for a prescription, it seemed almost too good to be true. Cataracts and Diabetes meds…how did I get here? I almost felt as if I needed to run and get the Early Bird Special at Golden Corral on the way home from my appointment.
Side effects of medication are one of the reasons I don’t love taking medication. Glucophage causes stomach upset, something I realized after I almost shit myself in Target. So much for that idea. Not only that, but the directions say to take one pill ‘after every meal’…see my problem?
I went shopping this past week. I hate shopping when I am forced to buy sizes that I don’t believe belong to me. I am still waiting on my waist trainer to come in and I intend to use it with reckless abandon. I stopped the Glucophage temporarily and looked into this week’s gimmick, The Blood Type Diet. Apparently, according to this research, we should be choosing and avoiding foods based on whether we are ‘Os’, ‘As’ or ‘Bs’. “Os” like me must stay away from grains (I’ve already failed miserably way, way back at shedding my Wheat Belly) and brisk regular exercise is paramount to successful weight loss. Well, FML. I must admit, hearing that ‘Os’ are susceptible to digestive problems due to acid, it kind of makes sense that the Texas Roadhouse Rolls I love to inhale always leave me with an upset stomach and heartburn. I will continue looking into this. I know two people who have lost 10 pounds following this regimen.
It’s 9:30 am and I’ve had two cups of coffee. I am not the least bit hungry but to appease that nagging voice in my head that reminds me that I need to eat breakfast, I will force myself to have a cup of yogurt with granola and blueberries. I won’t be hungry for lunch, so instead I will snack on a handful of wheat chips and a few slices of cheese, and so on and so on. I will skip dinner, or maybe I will have a handful of cherry tomatoes and a boiled egg, because THANK YOU LORD Ben is not here to cook for. Still, tomorrow morning, my weight will be just about the same. In my head I calculate that to be about 750 calories for today.
I am still drinking water almost exclusively, I am still staying active and sunning at the beach makes it all look and feel better at least, and my skin and hair feel amazing. Tonight, when the sun starts to go down, I will cut the entire yard by myself and today I want to see if I can do it all, front and back, without stopping. #goals Then I will pull weeds and move those enormous flower pots around, and I hope it will be a little easier since I am still doing planks and yoga in my living room every day.
I still obsess over those biscuits around my middle and that stupid number that will not go down.
A couple of cool things happened this week. My Kim K waist trainer arrived and my friend and I had ourselves in hysterics laughing as we tucked my middle parts into it over several hilarious minutes. (Please, I beg you to go look at that website. You will die laughing.) We had to put it on and then take it off again because we neglected to tuck my back fat in before fastening. I will need to get up an additional half hour early if I intend to add that contraption to my morning routine. I do love the way it shapes my tummy and waist. It makes my clothes fit better, which was one of my original goals. It also helps me sit up straight, and I’m not kidding when I say slouching is no longer even possible unless you want one of your lungs punctured or your breasts to be sliced off like deli meat. The bad news is it makes me belch constantly. Don’t let people tell you they’re dangerous. Women have been wearing corsets for 1000 years.
I am still taking the Metformin and I am attributing my continued, albeit minuscule weight loss to this medication. There can be no other explanation because my eating and exercising habits have not changed in over a month. I am still drinking almost totally water, I eat one meal per day with limited snacking, no late meals, no fast food, no sodas, not much in the way of carbs. The problem with the Metformin is that it assaults and then pummels one’s digestive system. The upset stomach it causes mimics a respectable case of food poisoning and because of this, I can only take it for 1-2 days in a row then I have to take a break. Enough of that…you get my drift.
I am coming to the end of this summer project. I have but one more week and I will have cycled through the entire summer on my journey to lose twenty pounds.
I’m a disappointment if you are looking for a success story. There will be no miracle makeovers to report to you, no television shows are coming to tape my big reveal. I have learned quite a few hard truths and have accepted them to be true, and perhaps that is the gift in this:
I now know that I did everything reasonable for my life to try to succeed in this endeavor.
I tried my hardest, within the capacity of what is possible with my schedule and my family.
I will never be someone who goes to the gym for several hours a day. That’s what it would require if I wanted to see huge results.
I will never be someone who can live on all protein or all raw food.
I will never be a Size 6 again. Ever.
I will never be without that soft area around my hips.
I will never be able to bend over and not have my stomach hang down.
When I roll onto my side, I will always have a have a little belly puddle lying next to me.
When I wave to someone or lecture with a Powerpoint, my arms will always jiggle.
When I look close enough, I can see my chin sagging. Nothing will stop this. It’s Mother Nature knocking on Father Time’s door.
From behind, the skin on my back looks thick and freckled, and the back fat bulges out around all the snaps and straps. Such is life at 45.
I wish I had better news. I wish I had The Secret we all wish for…take this pill and you will drop 25 pounds like a bad habit. That’s just not reality. Here’s the hard truth: at my age, I can’t do much to turn my body back to what it was. Even with the negligible amount of weight I’ve lost, the visions I’ve had for how that would actually look in the mirror have not come true. Even with losing twenty pounds, my body would just look like a skinnier version of 45. Look at your mothers…look at their bodies. There’s no stopping what is happening to us. There are a few super-fit 50 year olds with amazing bodies but I would wager that the maintenance of their bodies is an enormous and time-consuming part of their life. I don’t have that time to offer. Or, they must be blessed with good genetics.
Look around, though; there are more of ‘us’ than there are of ‘them.’
Keep drinking your water. Keep walking with your fit bit. Keep going to your Crossfit class with your girlfriends. Those things are good for you! The significant amount of rest I hope you get is so healthy. Stop eating garbage because it will make you look disgusting, faster. Don’t stop lifting weights if you enjoy it, but if your goals include a total body metamorphosis, I think you will end your endeavor frustrated like I am.
I am blessed with good health and better eating habits. I have established some best practices this summer, but I still failed at my goal. I will face my birthday next weekend in a bittersweet detente with the ugly reality of what getting old is really like for a woman. To celebrate my big day, I’ve decided I will have a small, delicious meal and will drink most of my calories, because let’s be honest, Life is Too Short to obsess over something that I can’t change. Now I can say I know this, definitively.
TOTAL WEIGHT LOSS: 6 pathetic pounds