After a long vacation in France, I’m happy to be back home. Just to cut to the chase, I weighed exactly the same today as I did the day I left, surprisingly (132).
What’s surprising about that is that I didn’t *lose* weight. I was on a walking vacation, walking each day from one town/village to the next, with my suitcase being transported by a service so it would magically arrive in my next destination before I even got there, thereby eliminating the need to carry a heavy backpack - very civilized. I walked a portion of the Camino de Santiago/Chemin de Saint Jacques pilgrimage route, which is a group of trails that have been used for many centuries by pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. This trip is exactly the kind of thing that I had in mind as a goal when I decided to do WLS. I walked 521,821 steps over 17 days - that’s about 250 miles(!), an average of about 31,000 steps per day. That’s around a half marathon every day for two and a half weeks. It’s not exactly mountain-type hiking, but it’s a lot of fairly long uphill/downhill stretches on sometimes extremely muddy trails, so pretty energy intense. I was walking about 6 hours per day.
My Fitbit informed me that I was burning around 3000-3500 calories per day, which is 1200-1500 more than normal. I started by trying to eat mostly on-plan, just more, but after a few days, I was visibly losing weight (in a bad way), so I knew I had to ramp up my intake a lot, which meant one thing: carbs. I don’t want to turn this post into food-p0rn, so I’ll just say this: if they have it in France, I ate it. Lots of it. Apparently, this was an OK strategy, because the scale is on target today, although I was actually expecting losses. My body composition has changed a fair bit due to the increased exercise, though, so I’m smaller at the same weight, and a little scrawnier looking. I was thinking I’d be down 5 pounds or so.
Eating was actually a pretty big challenge on this trip, partly because of the nature of the places I was staying. I was walking out in the countryside and staying in small BnB type places, but in France, those places include dinner, and are more of a family-style sort of thing. Picture me and my husband, sitting around the dining room table with a French couple and perhaps a few other guests (we were sometimes the only people, though). Full French 4 course dinner. Two to three hours at the table (on the plus side, my French has benefitted enormously from this intensive refresher course!). No idea what was coming out of the kitchen next. Yikes! It was a recipe for disaster on several occasions. France has a very strong food culture (obviously) and it was SOOOOO hard to try to politely eat enough to not be insulting while still not killing myself with food. I know, I know, I know: just say no. But that is NOT HAPPENING at a French chambre d’hôtes (BnB type thing). It’s not like a restaurant - it’s like being invited to dinner in someone’s home, where they’re showing off their culture to you via food.
So, some dinner strategies I used: warn the host that I’m tired from walking and won’t eat much (effectiveness rating: 2/5 - abandon after two attempts), push food around and play with it a lot, perhaps hiding it under garnishes and such (effectiveness rating: 3/5, continue to use throughout trip), warn the host that I have a tiny appetite and normally don’t eat much (effectiveness rating: 4/5, continue to use throughout trip), drink while eating (effectiveness rating: 5/5, would not have survived without this, now I really understand why it is so dangerous to do this).
I also ate a lot of things that were new to my pouch on this trip. I have been a vegetarian for about 16 years, with the exception of fish in the past two years. I had not eaten any other meat at all since around 2002. I decided that between my WLS food issues and my vegetarian food issues, the easiest way for me to get the nutrients I needed without being a hugely boorish guest (and American, might I add, another strike against me, culinarily speaking) would be to just suck it up and eat meat. I was very proud of myself for doing that. It was not easy at times (duck andouille sausages? gag). This also set me up for some epic dinner fails. One dinner I had to get up and go puke TWICE. I know, what was I thinking? Eating after puking? Yeah, we were only on the second course by that time, though, with two more courses to go. I have it so strongly beaten into my head to be as polite as possible about food when I’m a guest (particularly in another culture) that I just cannot say no. Let’s just say that my hubs has developed a keen sense of what my face looks like when things are about to go sideways. Anyway, I managed to make it through, and the dinners were the worst thing about the trip - an odd thing to say about a trip to France. I mean, I had some really nice food, but the stress of trying to eat an acceptable amount of who-knew-what-was-coming-next made it really hard.
Some things I learned:
- I don’t dump from sugar. This has now been very firmly established.
- I can drink a lot more alcohol than I thought (that stops today, though).
- I eat amazingly slowly, even compared to normal slow eaters.
- I can sometimes hide the fact that I eat strangely small amounts, but that depends a lot on the day and the type of food. Soup is fabulous for this. Refined carbs make it just about impossible.
- The easiest things on my pouch are the worst things for my health, generally speaking (dessert is a cinch, frighteningly).
- Pasta and rice are just no-go zones for me.
- I really prefer to eat at home rather than in a restaurant.
- A nice cup of herbal tea makes everything feel better.
- Eating meat won’t kill me, but I’d still prefer not to.
- Duck andouille sausage tastes no better coming up than going down.
Some non-food observations about my trip:
It’s been maybe 5 years since I was last in France, and I was surprised to find that even in this short amount of time, the number of overweight French people has increased. When I was a teenager, there weren’t really any overweight French people - like nearly zero. Now, overweight people are pretty common to see, and there are even some obese people. That has got to be pretty hard to live with in a society that is much more toxic toward overweight people than the US is.
My brain is obsessed with body size right now. I’m sure this is because it’s trying to work out its own self-image still, so it’s trying to figure out where I lie on the spectrum of sizes it sees, but it’s almost intrusive how much I think about it. “How about her? Is she bigger than me or smaller than me?” This is my brain all day long. And, honestly, it’s not very good at judging that - it’s still really working things out. I’m not looking forward to continuing this for a long time. It’s a very unkind and evaluative way of looking at other people. I’m sure I’ll get over it, but in the meantime, it’s on a constant loop in my head.
I’m so fit right now! It’s awesome! I can power uphill for half an hour without stopping, and it’s enjoyable. I’m not out of breath. I can just keep going and going. Even at the end of a day of walking 14 or 15 miles, I feel fine walking around town to go sightseeing, climbing up things and down things and just being active. I’m so glad I was working hard at the gym before going - that helped a lot, I’m sure.
When I’m 70, I want to be like the 70 year old French people I met out walking. They are in fine shape to walk 15 miles a day for weeks, or even months for the ones who were going all the way from the middle of France to the tip of Spain. I think that must have a really positive impact on their whole life - just to be in good enough shape to do that at that age means that you’re a healthy person doing healthy things with your life.
Some non-WLS observations about my trip:
Walking all day every day is a pretty zen way of spending a vacation. I’ve done this kind of walking vacation before, but only for 5-6 days. That’s about the point in this trip where I felt like I was really getting into the swing of things, so I’m glad it was longer this time. Would I want to keep going for the full 2-3 months to complete the whole trail, from beginning to end? Not sure. That’s a long time.
I’m just enough of an introvert that having dinner around the table with a new group of people I don’t know every evening is a bit much for me. That’s a whole lot of small talk.
There’s a little pocket of SW France that has been my favorite for many years. Our trip took us through it, as well as some areas around it, and my opinion is reconfirmed: this is my favorite part of France. Fairytale villages and castles, beautiful rolling hills and forests. So pretty.