Pounds – a seemingly universal measurement of health, right? Weight is a big deal to us generally speaking. Too heavy and you aren’t healthy. Too light and you aren’t healthy. Lose a pound in the last week? Great! Gain a pound? Your world might be ending!
For a very long time, I was fixated on how much I weighed. As I found myself gaining weight (for a bunch of reasons, but let’s summarize it as primarily physical laziness), I began to obsess even more. To the point that I’d go on a “diet” and at the same time start to weigh myself on a daily basis, logging my weight down to the tenth of a pound.
I’ll tell you now – that is absolutely not sustainable. Not now, not ever, not for anyone except maybe the exceptionally obsessive.
Several months ago, I was sick of being overweight – at least, that’s what I thought. The truth was, I was sick of feeling crappy. I was sick of feeling out of shape. I was tired of being out of breath just going up and down the stairs in the house. I was tired of eating foods that I knew were bad for me, even though they tasted good or gave me a sense of comfort.
I started out like I usually do – cutting out pretty much all carbs (except some fruits and legumes), intense exercise three to four times per week, logging meals in a calorie counting app every day, reading every label for every food I consumed. It was absolutely exhausting. Now, I was getting results. I lost 5 pounds, then 10 pounds. My body fat percentage was ticking lower as well, so I was putting on muscle for sure. But I couldn’t keep it up. It was a lot of work and I started to reach the point of frustration very quickly. I was running out of energy at the gym – at which point a trainer told me to eat simple carbs, processed sugars, even recommending that I eat a Pop Tart before coming to the gym. (A trainer?! Recommending that I eat a Pop Tart?! Something is wrong with that, right?!)
So I stopped. Instead I started focusing on good, clean foods that made me feel good – vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, legumes and healthy fats. I stopped counting calories altogether a couple of weeks later. I kept going to the gym but this time I started eating a banana and almond butter or a Kind bar before I went. (The bars with more protein than sugar…)
After meeting with a nutritionist, I was able to further tweak what I was eating. I restricted dairy to one serving per day – but most days not even one serving. I kept fruit to 2-3 servings per day and reeled in the starches, focusing on eating complex carbs like Ezekiel bread, brown rice, sweet potatoes and black beans – one serving per day. I focus on eating salads for lunch, with lots of leafy greens and other veggies, avocado, homemade vinaigrette dressings and protein like hard-boiled eggs or lean, organic deli chicken.
I still allow myself to have treats here and there. I still enjoy my craft beer a couple of days per week, but I limit my consumption. I still have a pastry on the weekends as part of my Saturday morning coffee + music + reading routine. And I still have some sort of dessert once or twice per week.
The big thing, though, is that I stopped getting on the scale every day or even every week for that matter. It’s probably been a month now since I’ve stepped on a scale. I’ll check every once in a while, usually when I’m sure that I’ve made progress. But it’s not that important anymore.
What is important is:
- I feel really good about myself.
- I feel really good.
- I sleep pretty well.
- I have more energy.
- None of my clothes fit.
That last one is the fun one. (Okay, it’s a pain to have to buy new clothes…) After a few weeks of this, all my pants were too large. After another couple of weeks, I was up to the last notch on my belts. I was basically forced to go buy new pants. Within a couple more weeks, even the new pants were starting to feel loose. My t-shirts – all size XL – are now huge on me whereas before they were snug around my waist.
I have lost about 7 inches around my waist (last I checked – again, about a month ago) and 5-6 inches around my hips. That is a HUGE deal. But what that tells me is that I’m doing the right things. If I were only measuring my weight, what I’d see is that as I put on muscle and burn fat, my weight will go down, but not necessarily rapidly because muscle is more dense than fat and therefore weighs more. Many of the scales that measure body fat percentage are inconsistent, so I try not to use those as a measure of fat loss either.
And even if I did measure based on weight, I can tell you that while it may feel good to see the number on the scale go down by 2-3 pounds in a week, it feels REALLY good to not be able to wear your pants anymore because they’re too damn big. You can’t beat that feeling with a scale.