Follow the Spiders

“Follow the spiders…why couldn’t it be ‘follow the butterflies’?” –Ron Weasely

My first post should jump right in to where I am now. I am following the spiders. Never blindly, of course, but I am following to an unknown destination. It could be dangerous, treacherous, and oh-so-frightening.

Yes, I am talking about weight loss.

I am not on a diet. I am not on a weight-loss program. I don’t starve or deprive myself or count calories. I am simply making lifestyle choices. There was no defining moment that made me want to lose weight. No neon sign that told me to lose weight. Perhaps I looked in the mirror and thought “hm, I could change this.” Perhaps it was the lack of food I was eating for a period of two weeks that made me think, “well, none of the food I am eating is healthy and it’s not healthy not to eat.”  Perhaps the mania was going strong and I thought “Sure I could lose 96 pounds!” Or perhaps it was a combination of all three. Whatever the reason was, here I am, two weeks into my goals and lifestyle changes, and I am thriving.

This month I have lost 14.6 pounds. But wait, this month? You’ve only been dieting for two weeks! True, but two weeks before I began this journey, my highest recorded weight was 206 pounds. When I began my journey, I was 195 pounds. I’ve included that period of weight loss into my total pounds lost because, well, why not? 11 pounds is 11 pounds!

So how did this journey begin, really, and what does it entail? If my therapist were to ask what really made me want to lose weight, I would tell her that I believe it’s the second part of fighting my illness. Going from 110 pounds to 206 pounds there were many times where I thought, “hm, scales going up. That’s okay, my cutoff point will be at X-amount pounds.” But then I kept repeating myself, extending the cutoff and extending the cutoff. In all honesty, I didn’t have the strength to lose weight at those times. I was severely depressed, and it took years to finally be okay with my body even as it was expanding in the waistline. That was really, really, really hard to do. I had to stop telling myself I was fat and ugly. I had to stop comparing myself to other women, “f***k, she’s skinnier than I am, I’ll never be that skinny again!” or “She’s freaking huge, thank god I’m not as fat as she is!” and trying to find some happy medium where I could settle with being comfortable at the weight I’m at. Once I “settled” with being fat, was I really happy with that? I would spend time looking in the mirror, looking myself over. The bloated belly. The muffin top. The lack of protruding hipbones I once adored. I would be deceiving myself if I could settle with how I looked.

It took me so long to be comfortable with my body, how and why should I risk losing my self-esteem and self-image in some grand attempt to lose almost 100 pounds? Now is the time to act. I mastered the med-taking, the curbing, managing, and monitoring of manic and depressive symptoms. I know my mind and all it can do; I am mentally fit. Five years post-diagnosis and I am bipolar strong. I no longer have an excuse, I cannot use my illness as a crutch any longer. Five years later, it’s damn well time to lose the weight. Here is where we get into the unknown of following the spiders. I have never made any attempts to lose weight. I’ve never set any goals or limits to do so. What plan do I follow, what gimmick do I have to jump hoops through? It’s all new to me.

The answer was extremely simple, I made my own weight-loss profile, recording my current eating habits, targeting foods I need, foods to avoid, and foods to cut out, and exercise habits which were non-existent, brainstormed, and produced three types of goals: water consumption, fitness, and nutrition. My water goals included drinking 8 big cups of water a day, fitness goals were to enroll in a gym membership and get 60 minutes of exercise every day, and nutrition goals were to increase veggies, avoid sweets, alcohol, and carbs, and to cut out pizza, soda, and mac n cheese (all big no-no’s for me). Next, put this plan to work. I made a big poster of my weight-loss profile and post it on my wall in my bedroom, keep a daily food journal, post motivating and inspiring sticky-notes on my mirror, and keep a chart of times I meet my goals of water-consumption and 60 minutes at the gym. I also read 100 Days of Weight-loss by Linda Spangle to stay motivated and find inspiration, and it’s very helpful. I read a brief chapter a day and do the “homework” at the end, and it fits for all diets and weight-loss program and I recommend this book for anyone looking to lose weight. It’s a gentle reminder to push forward and stay dedicated to reach one’s end goal.

I may use “diet” and “weight-loss” program as terms to describe what I am trying to achieve, but keep in mind I use these terms loosely. The ultimate goal is what most people call “lifestyle changes”. That’s all I am doing. I’ve made lifestyle choices. I focus on drinking plenty of water, but if I don’t meet that goal (and I found that this is hard to do with my need for multiple cups of coffee), it’s not the end-of-the-world-stop-my-diet-because-I-failed-so-I-should-just-give-up. It’s only inspiration to move push forward and work towards meeting my goal next time. My goal is to eat two salads a day–a side salad at lunch and a big salad for dinner, but you know what, some days I want to eat breakfast for dinner or some days I just want to eat a helping of veggies or fruit and call it a day. And that’s okay. One of the biggest issues with dieting and weight-loss programs is that some are just gimmicks setting one up to fail. One can NEVER have this, one should LIMIT that, one should AVOID doing this. That’s probably the diet people have when they want to lose weight fast and not learn what it means to truly learn a healthy lifestyle. And sometimes that’s okay. You want to look good when you’re walking down the aisle, you need to lose weight fast for a hip surgery. It’s okay. Every person is different, everyone has special dietary and fitness needs. We are all learning! My weight-loss profile is custom-made by me for me, no gimmicks, no limits, no BS. I’m taking it slow because I’m in it for the long-run.

I just had my first holiday dinner. My Dad BBQ’d his world-famous ribs for Easter. My parents told the story of how they had the butcher cut the ribs especially for them, and I know what a rare treat it is indulge in my Dad’s ribs and how hard he works to make them perfect. It was the first big test in my lifestyle change. An hour before dinner I had a big salad with lots of veggies and toppings, then before I even touched the ribs I had a serving of coleslaw and 1/2 cup of baked beans. I was full enough to eat only a couple half-pieces. I later declined pie, but I allowed myself to indulge in this special occasion. Nothing is off limits, I only make choices.

But wait, don’t you have limits and off-limits? Yes and no. I choose not to eat certain foods, but I do eat foods that are off limits. I choose not to drink soda, I choose not to drink alcohol, I choose not to eat certain foods such as bread as part of my lifestyle change, but that doesn’t mean I absolutely cannot have it. I eat waffles, drink alcohol, and occasionally I’ll have a soda, but when I have a goal in mind, it makes me think twice before I consume these foods and beverages. It allows me the freedom to make a choice. If I told myself, I absolutely cannot have a certain food or alcohol, and then I have it, I sabotaged my diet and all my progress is ruined and I might as well give up. But when I make the choice, and I say, okay, I’ll have my Dad’s BBQ ribs because it means so much to him, or do I really need to drink this wine because it will make me gain weight, then I have the freedom of what I put in my body, then it’s not black-and-white, then it sets me up for success instead of dwelling on my failures.

These past two weeks have been the ultimate test. From going from one meal a day with fast food and junk food as filler to eating more veggies, exercising almost every day at the gym, meeting some goals and need to focus on others, I’m making lifestyle changes by making choices. I have an end goal in mind and a long way to go. Keep following me and showing your support by leaving comments. Right now, I’m following the spiders.