A Summary of Weight Loss, Gain, and Progress

I am a person who believes everyone has a workout or workouts that are more fun than work. For some people it might be walking or running or hiking. For others it might be lifting weights or playing a sport. For others it might be hard work or even building things. My favorite workout is playing volleyball. But I also really enjoy simple aerobics, short runs, and the strength I feel lifting weights.

As a teenager, I discovered my love of volleyball. At first I thought it was just hanging out with my friends that was fun. And it was. But that didn’t carry over into other sports I played with those same friends. In college I got an office job, and all of the daily activity I had, whether just moving around every hour, waitressing several days a week, or even my high school conditioning class, went away. My previous effortless wait maintenance was now not so effortless.

Throughout college I slowly gained sixty pounds. The summer and fall after college I tried to lose weight in ways I hear others in the early 2000s lost weight: walking, trying to run, and aerobics workouts. Kickboxing was really popular. I didn’t mind any of those workouts (except running), but I never lost weight. My sister got married in late summer/early fall, and the bridesmaids dresses were a nightmare. My mom made the dresses and one day said something, I don’t think intended to be mean, about how she wasn’t sure she could make her pattern fit me because I was bigger than the biggest pattern. It broke my heart, and probably truly was the changing point for me. I suddenly really saw my body the way others saw it. I felt ashamed.

As an aside, I DO NOT believe in shame as a mechanism to weight loss. My mom wasn’t a mean person, and I think my whole life has said four things to me about my body. She says them with love, and I know she loves me despite my weight. But she’s a nurse and she can be somewhat clinical. She has struggled with her weight, and I think she just wanted me to get it together before I got too heavy, or too far into my habits. So, that comment sparked me, but if that’s all she ever said to me, it never would have worked. She was supportive throughout my journey, and gave me encouragement when I wanted to quit. So, don’t think calling your daughter fat, or shaming her is the answer. Just to be VERY clear. It isn’t.

I also learned about counting calories. As an adult, I know women who started dieting in their early teens, or even earlier. So to not find out about dieting until I was 22 was probably a nice reprieve from reality. And was also lucky my mom approached it in a healthy, “Count how much you eat for a week or two eating normally, then start eating less than that” was much healthier, I found, than the, “Eat as little as possible” approach so many other women followed.

I found I didn’t mind eating fewer calories. I ate less bread and fatty foods (this was the early 2000s – low fat was still a thing, so I ate lower fat cheeses, desserts, etc., and it did save me calories). Up to that point, I hated most vegetables, but I forced myself to eat them to figure out how I liked them. Or, in many cases, I’d hide them in recipes to create bulk for fewer calories.

But, for me, the desire to make diet changes has always had to come with exercise. I like to feel good while working out, and eating well made me feel better. So the true change happened when my mom suggested I find a workout that included weights. She’s a proponent for women to lift weights for bone density and strength, and in general to be able to eat more and look more toned.

I’d never noticed any strength-based workouts before, but I knew I didn’t mind weights from my high school conditioning class. However, I was a poor-just graduated, new to the workforce, making no money, looking to buy my first house, and couldn’t afford a gym membership. I sat on the information for a few weeks, and one day saw an informercial for a Firm workout. Lots of success stories,women saying they didn’t have to starve themselves, a ten workout guarantee, bright sets, women in matching outfits with toned bodies. But it felt so expensive. I watched that infomercial every time it was on, sometimes seeking it out. One day I asked my mom if she thought infomercial stuff was dumb while I was watching it and she said, “I think any workout you do is a good product.” I told her how expensive it was, and she said it’s probably cheaper than the gym, and being healthier is worth the cost. She even offered to lend me the money if I wanted to pay it back slowly. But I had the money, and if I remember correctly, you were able to purchase in two or three payments. I called and ordered my Body Sculpting System right up!

I ordered before my 23rd birthday, and the workouts came in on my birthday day off of work. It was a Friday. My sister and I had gone to lunch. I got home and my mom said I’d gotten a package. IT’S HERE! I opened it up and ignored the instructions to watch the workout first. I put the workout in in the living room. And started doing it.

It was the hardest workout I’d ever done. In fact, my dad came home from work and I was doing weightless leg presses, and he looked at me somewhat confused. And I said, “Don’t say anything, this is the hardest workout I’ve ever done.” He said, “This will be the hardest it ever is.” That night, my mom suggested I put my workout stuff in the basement so I could setup a space with my weights, when I bought them, even offering me her set of 2lb weights to borrow. And that was it. I slowly bought 3lb and 5lb weights. I waited to get 8s, as I did no weights for light weights for a long time, and even eschewed weights on leg presses and lunges. I was sore for days after each workout. Sometimes taking two or three days off instead of one. I worked through the rotation calendar, doing the workouts in the order suggested (I remember doing Cardio Sculpt several times before I moved on to Body Sculpt).

I was expecting immediate weight loss results because I didn’t understand you didn’t immediately lose the weight of the calories you burned off. I didn’t understand retaining water when you work muscles, or how hormones impact water weight. After two workouts in weighed myself and about lost it. My mom suggested writing my weight down as my “highest weight,” putting the scale away, doing the workouts, and weighing in “a month or so.” Well, in that month, I bought a house. I still did my workouts, although maybe only 2-3 per week, I was also working on my house every weekend, and I’d have occasional weeks I’d work ten hour shifts, so I’d go do manual work at the house on my day off. I thought very little about food, did my workouts when I could, slowly increasing weights and getting more endurance, until one day my mom and I were at a home improvement store and I was tugging on my sweats. “The stupid elastic must have gone out in these.” My mom said, “When is the last time you weighed yourself?” And I said, “The day you told me to stop weighing myself.” And she told me I should get back on the scale. The next morning I did, and I’d lost over 20 pounds in three months. And it looked like a lot more than twenty pounds because of the muscle I’d put on. I lost ten more pounds and was back in my high school clothes. Ten more (after adding in about two 1 1/2-2 mile a week runs) and I was the smallest I’d ever been post-puberty. I was down just around forty pounds, and smaller than my high school size, but about 35 pounds heavier.

What is this witchcraft?

I stayed motivated for some time, and then got bored, and let my career take the front seat. And then my freedom living on my own for the first time. Once I made a little more money, I’d go out to eat more or out for drinks. Before I knew it, I’d gained about 30 pounds back. One of my sisters was getting married about about a year, and we all decided to lose weight together.

So I stated over. We weighed in every weekend together. And once I started doing my Firms, the weight melted off. This wedding, in sharp contrast to the last wedding, was so different. At one point my mom told me to stop losing weight because if she kept taking my dress in (this time store bought, I bought the size that fit at the time), it might start to look weird. Eventually she said, “Oh, I can keep taking it in. I just want it to fit on the wedding.” I got down to right where I was the first time around, and stayed there until I started working 60-100 hours a week plus going to grad school. 2 1/2 years later, the weight was back.

After I graduated I got a terrible sinus infection. I was treated with antibiotics and a z-pak. I got over my sinus infection, then got REALLY sick. And by sick I mean I had diarrhea after everything I ate or drank. Everything. This went on for about a month until I felt weak, probably from dehydration. I have no idea why I put up with it for so long. Or why no one thought to say, “Hey, take a probiotic!” I lost 20 pounds in less than a month, and finally got my stomach sorted out. I kept working long hours, but started to squeeze in working out. I got down to about 170, ten pounds higher than my previous low. But never made it past that.

Then I slowly started gaining weight back, and getting more and more tired. Probably physical burnout from working so much, but also I never felt 100% after that sinus infection. I gained fifteen pounds, and couldn’t get the energy to workout. Food was messy, and this is when I started trying every diet known to man, thinking the right diet would give me better energy. I quit my position at work for a less stressful one, and tried to sleep more. Weight kept coming on. I got up to 30 pounds higher than my HIGHEST weight. And nothing I did would turn me around. I had no energy to workout. Foods I’d eaten in the past to curb my appetite weren’t working. I finally started long term fasts, where I’d eat nothing for days. That’s the only thing that worked, which convinced me something or some combination of something I was eating was the problem, but I couldn’t figure out what. I lost ten pounds that stayed off from fasting, then tried keto thinking maybe it was a blood sugar thing. I lost water weight, and maybe a few pounds of fat, but then I stalled and slowly started gaining. The diet was OK, but hard to maintain, and my energy sucked and I was always hungry. Eventually I gained my weight back (except the water weight), and quit keto, when I gained the water weight back.

And here I am over the past six months or so, trying to figure out what’s wrong. I finally took that food sensitivity test, and feel better than I have in years. I’m working out again, and though I haven’t lost much weight, I can feel my body changing. I’m just hopeful if, when, this works, I can stay focused and keep the weight off for good this time. Continue to change my routine to challenge myself, keep retesting food intolerances as soon as something seems off, and make my health a priority.


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