Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Winning the Weight Loss Battle as if by Magic

"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside."
  ~Mark Twain

I lost 40 pound in 2010 and let me tell you, people noticed.  I almost daily (for months and months now) get either a compliment on how great I’m looking or a question about how I did it. 

After running/Before running - yikes!

I hate the questions.  I never know how to answer them. I just say “I started running, did a marathon last year” then make some stupid joke about “running my ass off” with silly laugh. 

So here is my attempt to answer all those questions and explain how I did it as best as I can without the stupid jokes.

A Little History - The Weight Loss Struggle

I was always thin through childhood and high school.  Post-puberty I constantly thought I was too big and hated cloths shopping and compared myself to every magazine cover model and the other girls in school.  Pretty typical.  In reality I was very healthy and thin.

After I married the most amazing man in the world, I started to put on some weight.  It just snuck up on me over the first few years of our marriage.  Pretty typical.

So in 2007 I decided to do a very popular weight loss program which taught me a lot about being more aware of what I eat.  Learning to read labels, how much I really need to eat in a given day and what a proper portion size is.

I was committed to making it work and was willing to bully my body into doing what my head said.  I really struggled with the program.  I lost 10 pounds, plateaued, stopped going to meetings, and then gained it back, plus 10 more. 

Since that time I gave up ‘dieting’. I just won’t do it!  I won’t obsess about every little thing I put in my mouth and what it is going to do for my weight loss this week.  It was making me crazy!  I learned a lot of very helpful information.  I just needed to stop obsessing about a number. 

I kept up a lot of the good habits I developed and maintained my weight for a couple years. I was reasonably happy with that.  

How Many Calories Does Running Burn?

When I started running the weight just started melting away. Honestly, I can't really make sense of how that happened. The math just doesn’t add up.

I was running around 20-30 miles a week (just a few 30 mile weeks towards the end of marathon training).  The average person burns 100 calories per mile run (or walked, speed does not matter, the faster you cover that mile the faster you will burn that 100 calories but 1 mile=100 calories either way)  so I was burning 2000 to 3000 extra calories a week.

To lose one pound a week you need to cut your intake (or up your burn) by 500 calories per day (or 3500 per week).  I did not come close to running that much on most weeks and yet once I really got in a good rhythm with my running I was easily losing 2 or even 3 pounds a week.  So what’s up with that?

Running and Eating

I think what really made the difference is that when I started running, I also started eating better.  I didn’t really ‘try’ but when I knew I had a big hard workout scheduled that day the last thing I wanted to eat was some sort of greasy fast food for lunch. Not even a small portion of greasy fast food with a somewhat reasonable calorie count.

Running helped me tune into my bodies cravings and notice what kind of foods really helped me feel good and perform well.  I learned to really notice how food impacted my energy levels during the day and on the run.  

It's Still Not Completely Clear

Considering how much I struggled to get a handle on my eating habits it’s amazing to me that the change finally happened  as easily as it did when I started being active. 
The experience I’ve had losing weight over the last year and half has taught me that “will power” won’t change my eating habits.  I just can’t bully my body is to craving the foods I think I should crave or doing well on a low calorie diet.  All I can do is follow my gut and treat my body with love. 

Every time someone asks me “How did you do it?” I start to reflect and really try to identify what exactly it was that did it.  I still don’t know exactly how it all worked out for me emotionally and spiritually.  What I know for sure is that from where I was 2 years ago, dieting just didn’t work. Changing my activity levels did and from there other changes followed as if by magic.

My diet is not perfect, I am still working on it and I could probably still lose a few more pounds but I know with a little patience and love and fewer bully tactics my body will figure out where it needs to be.

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