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Making Choices

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nimiety

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I didn't lose weight in August.

I did a lot of other things, some of them productive and some of them pleasurable—and the month was a bit of a whirlwind—and I didn't lose weight. Right now, I'm sitting pretty much the exact amount of water I'm carrying because I'm carbed up (i.e. I've been eating enough carbs to keep my glycogen stores filled & thus retaining enough water to keep that glycogen soluble, which for me is about 5-6 pounds and a look of puffiness—higher scale weight, but stable mass) above where I was at the beginning of the month.

Now, I don't necessarily want to freak out about that. I feel pretty good about my body at this size, and the stuff that bugs me is post-weight-loss stuff, mostly—the skin stuff has gotten pretty real for me. My arms, my thighs, my stomach, my breasts—that's the stuff I struggle with. 

I think physically I might be a little smaller than I was, but nothing major. The XLs I bought from the Gap were too big and the larges are right on point; I tried on clothes at J Crew and the 14s were roomy. I bought a one-size skirt from a boutique on West Broadway yesterday, the kind of store that doesn't even make an XL, and their stretchier larges fit just fine. I thought about a drapey blazer, but it just didn't feel like me—it's an adjustment, not just buying the thing that fits. 

Anyway, it's time to decide what my approach is going to be for the rest of the year. My major priorities are twofold, and the first one is significantly more important than the second one:

1) I don't want to be a lifelong dieter—that was the whole point of surgery. I chose the VSG because it's the surgical option that's most like punching the reset button on your metabolism. Ghrelin production is a major part of the regulation of appetite, and removing the fundus of the stomach, where ghrelin is produced (and which is metabolically and endocrinologically central in other ways as well), suspends the metabolic freakout and defense reactions that would normally attend extremely low calorie intakes like those that happen after surgery. As metabolic function restabilizes, the body has the chance to reset a stable setpoint, is the hope. I want a stable setpoint. I want a weight that works for me that my body will defend as metabolic regulation reestablishes itself. I also want that weight to be sustainable for me without extraordinary measures. I do not want to be one of those people who's counting every calorie and striving for extremely low caloric intake ten years after surgery. I want to be able to settle into routines that maintain a stable weight without monitoring, or counting, or the more punitive kinds of self-denial. I want my eating life to be flexible, and pleasurable, and also sustainable and healthy. I do not want to be on a diet for the rest of my life. That does NOT mean that I won't need to keep an eye on things and check in, and keep best practices in mind. I committed to doing that when I signed on for surgery. But it DOES mean that if I can be 180 pounds and eat in a way that doesn't stress me out or 150 pounds only if I eat in a way that does, and sustain that way forever, I will choose the higher weight. Stability and sanity are, in combination, priority 1 for me.

2) That said, I have some vanity and lifestyle preferences. I would like to always be able to find my size in a straight-size store. I would like a little room for bounceback, should any occur. I don't have it right now. I'd like to have a low enough body fat percentage that plastics, if and when I go for them, can do as much for me as possible. I'd also like my cheeks to be a little less puffy, my cheekbones and jaw a little more defined. I've also thought about my powerlifting future. To be competitive, one wants to be at the top of a capped weight class, and that means either staying right where I am, or losing some more weight. The next class down caps at 158.5, so a walking-around weight of 155-160 would be a good place to land for that.

If the "window of opportunity" for weight loss after surgery—which is to say, the amount of time it takes your metabolic function to reestablish itself and a new defensible baseline of energy balance—is about 12-18 months, I've got about five months left. Putting in some effort in those five months to see if I can maximize the benefits of surgery would save me effort down the line, which is also a way I made the decision to have surgery. I decided that I was willing to devote some seriously intensive effort so as to reduce long-term effort. We're now in a place of slightly diminishing returns—that is, the difference between weighing 160 and 180 is a lot less significant than the difference between weighing 332 and 180, or even 200 and 180, frankly. So it's harder to get the energy up every day, especially when my life has changed and is changing in all these ways that make me want to run around and be a normal person and drink drinks and do whatever.

That said, the window is closing. And right now I'm feeling like it's worth a try to maximize that window. There are also other good circumstances for another push: the summer is ending, which means less orgiastic socializing, and the semester is starting, which means more routine. Plus, with the presence of a new person in my life, I foresee the necessity of fewer first-date drinks in my life! Not none, by the way—it's not exclusive, and it's also got some geographic distance—but definitely fewer. I'm looking forward to settling into something more routine for a few months. And so putting in some effort to see if I could lose another 20-25 pounds before the end of the calendar year seems worth it. 

I'm going to try not to belabor myself with this. I'm going to remember priority 1. But I'm also okay with making some changes that would make the best use of my tools right now—cutting out Diet Coke again and making sure I'm pushing water, reintroducing protein shakes, skipping alcohol, and tightening up the ship a bit on food choices, especially carbs, all seem like sane principles for the next four months. Getting back on the scale daily seems to be working for me. I may go back to tracking in MFP. 

I think there's some emotional ambivalence about being smaller than I am now, too, and that seems like an important thing to do some thinking around, but I can do that thinking while also putting in the pragmatic work. And the window is closing, so if I wait to decide, it may be too late to get the greatest possible benefit. So September-December are going to be a time of buckling back down after a loose, louche summer—not straightjacketing myself, just seeing what some reasonable effort can produce.

So I think that's the plan. 

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I'm glad to hear your very reasonable plans for the next few months. It seems that you have put a lot of thought into making sure your priorities are clear to yourself, which is both admirable and pragmatic, since knowledge of self is key in finding motivating strategies. I like that you have given yourself permission to ease up on how strict you have been with yourself over the summer. Exploring your own reasons for tightening back up a bit now is a great step in figuring out where you eventually want to end up. I hope I can find as much clarity when I approach my goal weight.

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You seem to know yourself so well. That's wonderful. In reading this, I've discovered I've resolved myself to being on a diet/tracking forever (& I do think of it as a diet, not a lifestyle.). I feel like it's just my cross to bear. It's really refreshing to read about someone approaching it differently. Here's to closing out 2017 in a satisfying way, whatever that might look like to each of us. I really like how your posts make me think deeply. You have a gift!

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Great blog entry. Your number one point has been my go to since before surgery. I have not tracked calories for even one day. My dietician doesn't really get it, but for me I intend to always focus on mindful eating with no barred foodstuffs.

We need to be happy as well as being healthy, and in my experience tracking leads to obsessive behaviour. This in turn leads to feelings of failure which make it easy for me to give up altogether. I need a sense of balance to be content, so that's where I've directed my energies in this journey.

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Sounds like you have a great plan going forward. I love reading how you're doing and what processes you're going through. 

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I agree wholeheartedly with your first priority. I don't want to diet for the rest of my life either. However even after vsg my body has a predisposition to hold on to fat so I will need to be mindful. It gives me comfort that the "normal" sized people in my life are generally mindful of what they eat and consciously make healthy choices every day, Neither my husband nor my sister struggle with their weight but both feel urges to snack on unhealthy foods and consciously make a healthy choice or wait till a mealtime. In our obesogenic environment, to be a healthy person and maintain a healthy weight the very least I have to do is that. In reality to maintain my weight and not have too much regain I need to do more than that and I'm ok with that. How much more we are willing to do is everyone's personal choice and it is what can lead people to the familiar diet mentality. Like you I don't want to tread that path any more. I think it is a very personal choice and it is taking me time and some trial and error to find what is a sustainable level of effort to keep my body at an acceptable mass and acceptable level of fitness. At 2.5y since vsg I have hit my lowest mass and then experienced some regain I am still exploring what is an acceptable and sustainable lifestyle for me to try to prevent any further regain. I wish you much luck and courage to find your own path. Xx

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Great blog, and great set of priorities. Your point about finding that stable set-point that is sustainable makes so much sense. 

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