Monday, February 8, 2010

Getting To A New Level

A couple of years ago, life was different. I had a very sick baby who couldn't leave the house except for doctor's appointments and a few rare excursions. When I did go out, I was hauling not only the baby and her car seat, but also a large, heavy heart monitor attached to her by a short cord and a metal oxygen tank with tubing attached to her tiny face with medical tape. Every time I had to go out with her, I was in a near panic. What if the monitor battery failed? What if she stopped breathing? What if her heart monitor alarmed? I was kind of a basket case for awhile, but I was extremely focused on her care. I was absolutely living and breathing to make sure she was okay, including making sure she had all her meds on time, titrating her oxygen, and breastfeeding every 2 hours. But I still found time to eat. A lot.

The extreme inactivity of sitting in my living room all day, every day for months... tethered by an 8 foot cord to her monitors and oxygen tanks as I held her... it was rough. It put me back up around 280 pounds. I had been there before but in this new situation with the baby, well, losing weight just seemed hopeless to me. I couldn't leave her anywhere to exercise. Couldn't take her with me. So I sat. And ate.

Later, when she was a toddler, a lot of her health issues calmed down and I was given the okay to start living a relatively normal life with her. She was about two when I started this blog weighing 278 pounds. And I had to adjust to a new way of living. I did, and it shows.

My life at 278 pounds:
Sitting on the couch for about 90% of my waking hours
Going outside very rarely, maybe once a week
Eating a lot, mostly junk food, without any thought
Snacking constantly
Binge eating regularly
No exercise
Inability to walk further than to the mailbox and back

I was almost to the Walmart motorized cart stage.

In order to maintain at 225-235 pounds, I am:
Sitting on the couch a lot less, but still too much: maybe 30% of my waking hours
Going outside daily, weather permitting
Counting calories about 80% of the time, averaging 1800 cal/day
Binge eating about once or twice a month
Eating much less, mostly healthy food, with 99% thoughtfulness
Having an "off" day (not usually planned) about 4-5 days a month
Exercising 30 minutes about 3 times a week
Able to walk about 2 miles if I am not injured or in a lot of pain

I have an almost normal life now, I believe. Activity level wise, anyway.

Now, to take this further, I know what it takes to lose and maintain around 214 pounds, because I have done it:
Sitting on the couch reduced to about 20% of my waking hours
Counting calories nearly 100% of the time, averaging 1600 cal/day
Binge eating once a month or less
Eating the way I do now, but with less "off" days... pretty much none
Exercise 30 minutes 6 days a week

So I aim for the above, in order to reduce my weight.

(I know the whole "sitting on the couch" thing may seem like a LOT of time to be sitting, but I do have severe degenerative arthritis, bone spurs in my knees, and a torn meniscus, all of which require frequent stretches of being off my feet throughout the day. I use the time to read, blog, clip coupons, and read to my child.)

Part of my thought process though, is "how hard am I going to have to work to get UNDER 200 pounds?" I mean, I was doing the above on a regular basis when I was in the two-teens JUST to maintain that weight. I imagine that to get to 180 pounds I'll have to cut back to 1500 calories a day with nearly NO off days, no binges, 100% on plan and increase the exercise significantly. And to get to 160? I can't even imagine how much change that will take.

Part of me really dreads it all. Part of me wonders if it is going to be worth it. Part of me is scared to even try. After all, I have not been 160 pounds in almost 20 years. It's kind of scary.

But for now, I am just trying to maintain that level that will get me to 214 again.

What changes do YOU need to make to get to the next level?


tshunter said...

Awesome post.. I am 210... and trying to lose about 50 lbs... so far I think that you have done great considering life's challenges and health conditions... keep it up and I'll be encouraging you the whole way...

Enz said...

This is a great post for a variety of reasons...I especially like how you've broken in to stages what you need to do rather than the whole picture and that you are being realistic and realizing what you can and are willing to do right now.

I know from my own weight loss, that as I lost weight, my body got healthier and I didn't need to make as many "cuts" and "increases" to lose weight as I did when I was unhealthy. Hopefully this will be the case for you too.

Kyle Gershman said...

While my life challenges pale in comparison to many others, there are times when it seems like I can't do enough. I have put getting healthier first and that means that some other items (that can) have had to suffer.

While we will surprise ourselves with how much we actually can take on if we try, it is also reasonable to take on change slowly to acclimate to our new routines.

I'm still too much on the couch, internet, etc., though I am exercising in the morning regularly. My eating is spot on, though.

My changes really need to be to better incorporate some of my other responsibilities into the mix. Less TV, more getting taxes done!

Your post is inspiring as usual!

Jack Sh*t, Gettin' Fit said...

I think you're going to be amazed at how much better you feel when you drop additional weight. I used to get up feeling all creaky and simply chalked it up to getting older. Now I almost spring out of bed without the aches and pains that I just thought were an everyday part of life.

Keep up the great work, Lyn.

Leslie said...

Hi Lyn,

I can identify with this post so much. One thing I want to say is that I think that if you are able to eventually increase your physical activity and do strength training, your BMR (metabolic weight) and muscle mass will be higher, which will make it not quite such a thin line upon which to tread in order to maintain.

Do you have a way you could swim? I belong to a gym that has a good pool, and I'm trying to get myself geared to start swimming, or even treading water, to increase my activity since my knees are still so f'ed up. I made a commitment to a swimming blogger this morning that this week, I am going to brave the bathing suited horror show that is my body (in my mind, at least) and get in the pool and being. I've read that the water can even help arthritis by being antiinflammatory as well as totally supportive of the body parts.

YOU. CAN. DO. THIS. I'm rooting for you 100%!

Megan said...

Thanks for the thought provoking post. I have been thinking about this recently...I am darn comfortable at my current weight, but since that weight is about 50 pound over what is considered healthy, I'm trying to work into a *new normal* that will slowly bring my weight down.
You are a good writer--thanks for your blog!

Anonymous said...

I really had to cut out sugar, wheat and white foods. I added in healthy oils, olive oil and butter and even coconut oil. Eliminated unhealthy oil. Cut out the "low fat" diet, eliminated anything in my home that said it was low fat.

2/3 fresh fruit and veggies, 1/3 dairy and grains, 1/3 protien...with a splash of sweets for fun, just a splash. Trader Joe's dark chocolate is a soothing life saver.

Our table and pantry looks so much more like my mom's did in the 60s and 70s, (with some menu updates) when the world was thinner. I can eat more calories this way, my nagging aching issues went away and I look and feel 20 years younger.

It's interesting how my weight became a 50lb problem along with chronic pain in the early 80s, when "low fat" became the healthy thing to do. I wish I had known then what I know now, and made that mistake much shorter.

Cristy said...

You will get to the next level, and the next and the next. We all need to continually adjust or ways to get to the next level. Just keep positive and push through.

The Chubby Girl Diaries said...

Is it possible for you to do low-impact exercises like bike riding or water aerobics? I bet if you changed up your workout routine a bit you would see a big payoff! :)

Still, you are doing fabulous. From where you were then to where you are now is exceptional! And you had so much to deal with too!

Keep up the good fight! You *will* reach your goals! :)


ctina said...

I love this post! At 127 lbs my life is very different than it was at 155 lbs.

Right now, I am on the couch for about 8% of my waking hours.. about 1 hour a day. Running all over the place. Eating mindful meals. Trying not to consume too much sugar, caffeine, or alcohol - especially around bedtime! And, I work out or run 3 to 4 days a week.

This is a hugely different lifestyle than my college years. Sugar and caffeine were over 60% of my diet. I never slept well. My only exercise was walking..

A healthy life is really so different- there should be another word for it. It's a different kind of living.

Steelers6 said...

I'm hoping the formula you spell out here isn't a hard and fast formula for me and that my muscle mass becomes a bigger factor & burns up them thar calories as I continue on my journey.

I agree spelling it all out in front of us is a little overwhelming and you are probably wise to continue to look @ the shorter term goals, focusing on the 'next' level. Gotta do what works for you. What seems to be working for me right now is keepin' on, moving forward, eat right & exercise, slow & steady wins the race. =) [but I am excited about giving my metabolism a boost w/muscle mass etc. Looking fwd to having that on my side even more.] Chrissy

Lyn said...


I am going to try swimming again if I can get access to a pool. I am working on it now. When I did the "old lady" swim aerobics before, it actually hurt my knees so badly I was out of commission for a couple of weeks. Not sure why... maybe the lateral movement with the pressure of the water was too much for bone-on-bone. I am going to try again just swimming without a lot of kicking.

Chubby Girl Diaries~

Biking is what I do for my exercise already. I try to walk twice a week as well but my main exercise is biking 30-40 min/day.

When I weighed 214 I was also strength training 2-3 times a week to maintain that weight.

Seems like it takes a lot more effort than one would think...

Debbie said...

Great post and I know how you feel, I just started and I weight 280 lbs. I think you have done great and keep it up.

M said...

It's when we take care of others that we tend to forget to take care of ourselves. Guilty here.

midlife_swimmer said...

First off WOW!!!! you have gone so far woman!Your high weights were close to my current weight and My high was around 380.... I only had access to a scale that weighed 350 so it took awhile before I got there. I started and remain in the water. I am so happy to see Lesli committing to swimming all over the place. I truly believe the water offers me the freedom to throw down a workout without risk of injury on an almost daily basis and I mix it with other types of fun things when I am capable like dancing classes or walks and small hikes. I also bicycle a lot to stay low impact on my joints. Your habits are great, your motivation is there, the stress of a sick child is lifted... It's time and you are doing so well.

Duddes02 said...

Hmm, it takes me about 1400 a day to maintain at about 165. I gain if I eat more than 1400 usually.

1000- 1200 to lose a 1 lb a week.

I also have to cut out bread, cereal, some fruits and stick with eggs, vegetables, tofu, beans, and nuts.

I can usually cut back enough for two weeks or so to drop into the 150s and then I get back into the 160s when I start eating more carbs.

It seems like it's a cycle at whatever weight. You'll figure out what keeps you in maintainence mode, what makes you gain..etc

Anonymous said...

I don't think you will necessarily have to keep slashing and hacking at the food and stuff. As you lose weight it will get a lot easier for you to do more physical stuff. As you do more physical stuff you will wear off more calories. This weight loss thing takes a long time (I'm so tired of it some days) but it does happen with persistence. One level at a time Lyn, one level at a time.
Keep it up.

screwdestiny said...

Yeah, you will have to eat less calories when you are at a lower weight, because your body just doesn't need as much to function. Or, if you add in a lot more activity (more time and/or more rigorous) then you'd be able to eat more calories and still be at a low weight. And the thing about exercise is, I know it's tough for you right now to do a lot, but think about it--if you weighed 160, that would be 70 pounds less than what you're at right now. Even with the arthritis, your knees are still going to feel a hell of a lot better with 70 less pounds bearing down on them. So you should find it easier to be active. Plus, once you start strength training again you'll find that the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will be. I think, in the end, it won't be as hard as you think to get to a lower weight and maintain it.

Joan said...

I too loved this post. When I think about what I have had to do to get to the "next" level... hmm.. at first it seemed TOO HARD to do. The extra exercise and eating less was so wearisome. I too have osteoarthritis (but in my hips). I have lost about 25 pounds since the beginning of November, eating maybe 1600-1800 per day, but also weight lifting 3 days per week, a la "Body for Life", plus cardio 4-6 days on the treadmill. I started out walking about 20 minutes at a time and now up to 50 minutes on weight days and 70 minutes on non-weight days. I do have to repeat that at first it seemed almost impossible and I complained A LOT to my husband about how hard this was and how it wasn't worth it etc. etc. etc. I also read a book at Christmas called "Potatoes, Not Prosac" that talks about sugar sensitivity and how sugar will make you feel like crap if you are sugar sensitive and I have all but given sugar up. My mind is in such a better place, I can not even begin to explain. You have talked some about the sugar fog. I have decided that feeling like that is just not worth it to me. It also became apparent to me that it was so much more difficult to control my eating when "under the influence" of sugar. I don't really miss it and I am not a nazi about it (I will eat ketchup, or other stuff like that or hot chocolate on occasion, but not icecream, candy or cookies). It has gotten easier for the most part and I am not worried about the long haul. I probably have another 30 lbs to lose, and it will come off. Also, I have seen a huge decrease in the oestoarthritis pain, but not sure if it is due to decreased weight, vigilant taking of Aleve every day, or taking flax seed oil and other supplements.

Steve said... have come A LONG way. Thats awesome.

I need to get my diet into gear. I keep saying I want to work on it, but I end up doing nothing. I'm working out a lot and would have had a lot more progress by now if I kept the diet in check.

clickmom said...

I went from 272 to 252 by putting on some muscle. I ate without restriction but worked out with resistance 3 days a week. I am down to 235 with sheer determination. I am running, lifting, climbing, biking, doing anything they offer at the gym AND I gave up grains and am keeping it around 1,500 calories a day. My next goal is under 200 lbs. I really haven't been that low since before my first kid was born in 1993 and that milestone will be a big celebration for me. I plan on giving myself a boost by eliminating fruit for a while. I'm going all protein and veggies to jump start a lagging loss cycle (also because I suspect I have a yeast overgrowth) I hope we get there together! It sounds so delicious! UNDER 200! My really long tern goal is my pre pre pre pregnancy weight: 180. If I make it back down that low, you'll hear me whooping it up across the continental US.

clickmom said...

When I make it that low. Not IF! WHEN.

Anonymous said...

You will get there. As you lose more and more weight, you will find that your arthritis is not as bad, and that the bone spur pain is entirely gone or at least has subsided significantly.

You have a strong will.

I love your blog.

Larkspur said...

I thought this was a great thought provoking post. Hope you don't mind my linking to it on my blog. I think you are wise to think realistically, but it's also true that you don't know what you're capable of until you try. I think most of us have bodies that can "learn" to be leaner given the right foods and activity, without having to take calories sub 1500.

soontobe...skinnygirl said...

Great post! I can relate to the way you were at 278. I was beginning to feel like a hermit and the reason I didn't go out much was because I felt so BIG when out in public. That and the fact that I had nothing decent to wear.

I like how you've moved forward in small steps. I think it's ideal. I think it's most likely the key to keeping your weight off. You'll hit plateaus and then you'll walk a little more...move a little faster, eat a little less or better still eat as much but a little healthier. You can do it! You already have it figured out!


Anonymous said...

If water aerobics are too painful, just get in the pool and swim! I started back to the gym about four months ago and I do half an hour on the treadmill, then circuit training, but the favorite part of all is after this I get in the pool and frolic like I was a kid again! I bought a tankini so the bottom is shorts really, no flab hanging out. Each time I find I can swim more laps than I could previously. You should give it a try, it's really a way to exercise and not be sore or sweaty, and nothing jarring.


Greta from said...

Maintaining/building muscle has been the #1 key to my success this time around. As long as I am exercising...including lifting some weights 2-3 times a week, I am able to eat 1400-1600 calories a day and still lose weight even though my BMI is approaching 25 finally and my thyroid sucks and my average body temp is about 97.

Ditching grains has been huge for me, too....the day after I eat grains...especially water weight goes up and my joints ache. is what it is. Grains make my body inflamed and achy and make me crave bad food. :(

The BMR of someone who weighs 278 is around 1995 calories burned. (this takes NO activities into account) The BMR of someone who weighs 200 is 1656, and the BMR at 160 pounds is around 1483. So, yes, it takes about 500 less daily calories to maintain 278 than to maintain a weight of 160 but I am going to guess that the extra activity at 160 is likely going to add up to at least 500 calories a day burned. Exercise (and just moving around more) is SO much easier at a lower weight!

Come to think of it...the calories I eat every day have increased over the last 11 months that I have been losing weight. I started off at 1200-1300 a day when I weighed 253 and am definitely more in the 1400-1600 range now at a weight of 180. That is pretty cool..never really thought about that before. It is definitely a first for me to be able to eat more calories at a lower weight....and I hope that this helps me to maintain it once and for all!

Lyn said...


If someone would let me in their pool I would gladly swim. I called all the hotels in the area and asked if any of them allow people to use the pool for a fee. I got all NO's. There is no YMCA pool, no indoor city pool or school pool at all. My only other option is to join the gym at $70/month which is simply not in the budget.

Guess I struck out for now on the pool. I can certain swim in the summer... lots of outdoor pools around.

Marie said...

Hey Lyn,
I am not an expert on any of this sort of thing...but I recently got to a healthy weight, after being overweight for my whole adult life. What I found was, it was much easier to focus on the process, rather than on the "end result." Day by day, small things added up, so I kept doing them, and added more as I could. In the end, I had made BIG changes, but if you had told me in the beginning what I would do and continue doing to be healthy, I would've said it sounded awful, and wouldn't be worth it. Now I know that it is, but it's all a process. As I lost weight, it felt more natural to eat less, or I'd feel bloated. It also became easier to exercise, and exercise caused me to crave healthier things...and to be able to make up for slip-ups.
So please, don't overthink it and psych yourself out. It will happen, and it is hard work--but in some ways, you just have to let it.
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

So swimming is out. What about yoga?

Claire said...

Every pound is worth it...and every pound it gets easier to move...and you have more energy and desire to move as well.

seth said...

Keep pushing though! Great job and congrats on your successes.

BEE said...

hi im new to your blog
i really like this post so i decide to follow
you are doing amazing
keep up your great work


Anonymous said...

Darn it Lyn, that stinks. Well summer is coming ...


Anonymous said...

That's an interesting question Lyn - about the changes we need to make to ensure we do progress with our weight loss.
It's good to be conscious of what we need to we spend our time.

At the end of every day I am beating myself up. I have to lose the least six stones, which is 84lbs. This isn't a cosmetic deal - it's about my health. Well, I guess it is for all of us really.

I am still fighting the fact that I have to make changes. My kids have grown up and although two still live at home they are not here during the day. I have worked for the last thirty years, whilst raising them alone, and now I have retired on ill health grounds. I have, for the first time in my adult life - my days to myself. However, this is MY time and I don't want to spend it doing boring exercises or going out walking because I have to.

So, for me, I have to change my attitude towards the whole weight-loss deal. I resent having to change...and do the minimum amount of movement and make dietary changes reluctantly. I am not being strict with myself, or even trying to summon up a bit more willpower or self-discipline. I am not eating much...I am still fridge-picking and not planning nutritious meals which will fill me up. All those who have replied so far seem SO enthusiastic about exercise. (When do you begin to feel that way?? After doing it I suppose and releasing those feel-good endorphins?)

So, for me the change has to be about loving myself more. I am worth the effort of preparing a healthy meal...and my body will thank me for moving it more. I am trying...I know I have to change my life...and some days I do reasonably well, but I don't always feel fired up about these changes.

Perhaps instead of thinking more, I need to think less, and JUST DO IT?

Once again, thanks for giving me something to think about.

DBDee x

All Women Stalker said...

I really admire your determination and your story should serve as an inspiration to others. You can do it, and we'll be here to cheer you on!