Gretchen vs. The Need to Meal Plan

So, I work for Yelp. I’m the Northern Virginia Community Manager, and, yes, it’s the raddest, most bomb-diggity job ever. I get paid to do things like write, put together fun events that make me feel uber-popular, and love on local businesses — all things I do on the reg anyway. Plus, I work from home, have amazing local coworkers, and have access to all the free mints and chapstick a girl could ever need.

It rocks. Now, to be clear, this really was not meant to be a bragging session about how great my job is. It’s great, and it’s a really good fit for me. But it also presents a challenge when it comes to my new lease on trying to lose weight.

Lemme ‘splain. See, while Yelp can help you find pretty much anything from a new doctor to a place to get your bike fixed, as you can all probably attest, it is most well-known for being a resource when it comes to food & restaurants. And the fact of the matter is that the majority of businesses with whom I work and the majority of places where I throw events are restaurants. So, yeah, I’m around food and thinking about food and looking at food a lot.

Throw in the fact that even in my personal world, I love dining out — trying new restaurants, getting the scoop on the latest food trends, satisfying my unquenchable thirst for bubble tea — and you can see where we might hit a few road blocks, weight loss-wise. Now, losing weight and eating out are not mutually exclusive things, of course. I’ve written many posts in the past about being able eat in restaurants while in weight-loss mode, and I never really gave up my love for dining out when I lost weight before.

But even with the frequency of which I was going out to eat back then (I did it quite a bit), it’s not the same as it is now. Back when I was working my old government contracting jobs, I was in a routine where I was eating breakfast before work, then usually bringing in a healthy lunch. So even if I went out to dinner, I had still set myself up well to be able to indulge a little more than evening. But in this job, every day is so different from the next, and I don’t always know exactly how things are going to play out, meal-wise.

Some days I’m home all day and have the flexibility to be able to cook and make whatever I want, but other days I might be out flitting from meeting to meeting all day long. This week alone, I had a dinner event Monday, met my coworker for lunch Tuesday, had all-day calls Wednesday, and I have another event tonight.

I don’t mean to make it seem like I blame my weight gain on this job. I really don’t! But it would be naive of me not to recognize the additional temptations and challenges that come with having a food-centric job. It makes planning things out in advance all the harder… and at the same time all the more necessary. The problem is, I’ve never been great at meal planning, prepping, or any of that stuff. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pantry kind of home cook, and I like being inspired in the kitchen.

So my current challenge is to get better about planning out my week in advance, so that I take full advantage of the times when I can eat at home, and so that I make good, thoughtful choices when I’m out. I know that this will involve not a small amount of pre-planning grocery lists and whatnot, so that I make sure that A) I always have good options to eat when I am home, and B) the food I do get at the store doesn’t go bad before I can use it. I admit, I am notoriously awful at overdoing it at the grocery store and then letting food go bad in our fridge because I didn’t think about how many events or commitments I had that week.

But with a little bit of extra planning, I know that I can be successful. Take last night, for example. I have dinner with my family every week (aww/gross, I know ;)), and we started doing a new thing where we rotate between my parents’ house, Ben & Taylor’s house, and my house. Since last night was Sean’s & my first time hosting, I took full advantage of being able to cook something healthy for the whole fam.

I made a large batch of turkey chili with beans (with all the fixin’s!) and some baked sweet potato fries. It ended up being a delicious and filling meal for everyone (well, at least I sure hope they didn’t leave hungry!) and I got to stay on track. And all it took was a tiiiiny bit of forethought — I mean, maybe this is a bad example because obviously I wasn’t going to just play pantry roulette when I knew I had a large group of people to feed, but you kind of get where I’m going with this, right?

And once I get the hang of planning the week out better, hopefully it will also help alleviate my automatic default setting of wanting to go out (or order in) whenever I don’t really know what I want to eat. The trick will, of course, be continually planning meals that are exciting and relatively culinarily challenging since I like to pretend like I’m on Top Chef every time I’m in the kitchen. That’s why I really loved meal boxes like Hello Fresh — the meals they sent were so interesting and everything I needed was already RIGHT THERE. Except that, too, fell victim to ingredients going bad in the fridge because I didn’t use them in time due to various other dinnertime commitments of one kind or another. Plus, it was just a little too expensive to maintain on the reg.

Aaaanyway, all this babbling has really just been to say that I’m going to try meal planning a little better from now on. So all you super organized folks, let me know the secrets to your success! Do you use a planner, do you have a whiteboard, are you putting your meals into Google Calendar… is there an app for that?

Be proud of me, guys. As Alexander Hamilton/Lin-Manuel Miranda says, “For the first time I’m thinking past tomorrow!” (Ohhhh yeah, I’m SUUUUPER Hamilton obsessed by the way) and genuinely trying to take a grown-up approach to this ish. Because, while dining out is an inevitability for me (even if work wasn’t a factor, I just love restaurants, man!), there is absolutely no excuse not to make the most of the time I do get to spend in my own kitchen, right?

Success, Failure, and Complications of the Past

Most of you reading this probably know that back in August 2010, I started this blog purely to help me with my weight loss. It was called, “Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen!” and writing about my struggles, victories, failures, and successes eventually led me from 246 pounds to 186 pounds — a sixty pound weight loss.

Of course, as we all know, I did not maintain that weight loss. And I find myself nearly exactly at the same weight I was five and a half years ago — in fact, I had to lose 7 pounds just to get back to (almost) the same starting point. Needless to say, facing up to this fact has been a real challenge for me.

See, previously having succeeded in losing weight, I have all sorts of comparison photos that show the before vs. the “after.” Of course, now, having gained my weight back, my “current” is basically worse off than my original “before.” This, it goes without saying, is both a strange and supremely disheartening feeling. In past years, I spent not a small amount of time putting together collages and photo comparisons of myself before and after my weight loss. I wrote many, many posts all about how overjoyed I was not to be “that person” anymore… only to slowly become that person over the next couple of years.

Now, granted, I realize that I’m not really the exact same person. I’m older, wiser (?), and my hair has gotten way, way, way more fun. But you understand my point. The fact that I’ve already been through this once (and, if we’re being honest, it’s really been more like eleventy billion times, given how often I’ve started and stalled in my various weight loss attempts, but I digress…) means that I’ve got a lot of complicated feelings about going through it again.

Every victory feels tainted with the knowledge that I’m doing it over.

Every time I stop myself from taking seconds, or I decline ordering dessert, it reminds me that I’m just at the very beginning of this long, arduous process.

And it just feels like I’ve wasted so much time.

How do I celebrate my current and future successes when each one is just a reminder that I backslid so far in the first place? How do I look past what’s happened in my past?

I know in a cognitive sense that it’s dumb to dwell on this. What’s happened has happened, and the only way to go is forward. But knowing and feeling, I think we can all agree, are different things. And right now, this feels so joyless because I can’t block out the idea that I’m living my own straight-to-DVD sequel.

This is not to say that I’m discouraged enough to stop. It’s the contrary, really, I feel as though I have all the more to prove now. I just hope that as I go along, I’ll be able to reclaim some of the joy that comes with the smaller victories along the way. Because any way you dice it, staring down 40 or 60 or 80 or however many pounds one needs to lose… that’s a tough pill to swallow. And finding joy in the 5 pound losses and the non-scale victories and the little indicators of success was so crucial for me the first time around.

I guess there’s only one way to find out how I’m really going to be feeling over time — I need to give it time. After all, this is still so new. And yet, old. Haha, are you guys sick of me talking like this yet?

All right, I think I’ve blabbed on enough for one day. Those who know me, know that I deal with having a lot of feelings on any regular day, so throw in my currently complicated self-image, weight loss, and what can only be described as intense sugar withdrawal symptoms, and well, you get me.

But don’t worry, sunshiney, bubbly Gretchen will make a triumphant return before long, I’m sure of it. Just let this hot mess version work out a few more things first, eh?

 

The Shame & the Silence

It’s all too familiar a scenario. Days spent sitting in front of a computer, your typing fingers pretty much the only parts of your body receiving any kind of exercise. Exhaustion settles in from the mental and social battles you’ve fought as part of your job, even though physically you’ve accomplished very little. And due to that exhaustion, you’re ready to just toss something quick and easy (and bad for you) into your mouth so that you can decompress. And so your nights are spent in front of a TV, catching up on missed shows or Netflix queues, or laying back on the couch reading a book.

Unsurprisingly, the lack of movement, the diet of terrible and delicious food, the sedentary life you’ve groomed yourself into leads to the things you know they lead to. Your clothes start fitting tighter, some stop fitting altogether. You push them into the back of your closet to help you forget. You hate the photos that other people take of you. You untag yourself, you delete. You stop looking so closely at yourself in the mirror. You only concentrate on the things you still like, the things unaffected by what you’ve been doing to yourself: your eyes are still nice. You can still have fun with your hair. And hey, your shoes always fit.

Your mood shifts at the drop of the hat. Maybe it’s a reflection in a store window, a TV commercial, an accidental gaze down at your own body — whatever it is, it has the power to turn you from feeling pretty and put together to depressed and despondent.

But despite all this, the denial is still strong. You can put it out of your mind. You can ignore it. “I’m still fit,” you tell yourself, even though your heart rate shoots up from merely carrying a load of laundry upstairs. “I can still do things,” you argue, as if surviving a day at Disneyworld or being able to stand through a 3-hour event is an accomplishment. As if you’ll be 28-years-old forever.

Deep down, you know that things aren’t good. That you don’t think you look good, but that’s really not the biggest part of it. It’s that you don’t feel good. In your body or about your body. You know other people can tell. And the only reason your family isn’t saying anything is because they’ve already been down this path with you before. To their credit, it’s probably the smart thing to do. You don’t react well to criticism. You never have. You always had to do things your way.

Then, one day, after weeks and months and years of denial and disinterest and clever angles, the moment finally comes. You really have had enough. You know what this moment feels like, you’ve felt it before. You’re really ready to make a change, get back on the horse, start focusing on yourself again. You take a deep breath, and finally face what you’ve been avoiding for so very, very long: the scale.

You step on, you force yourself to open your eyes, and you look at the number on the floor in front of you.

Your shoulders fall. Your heart drops. You’ve failed.

This is me. This has been me, for longer than I like to admit. I pretty much stopped blogging about weight loss, claiming I’d moved on, that I was happy with myself as-is, no changes needed. Which, you know, I do believe in as a concept, but it never actually rang true for me. Because despite my declarations, I never really stopped thinking about my weight. I never stopped wondering, wishing, wanting. And every time I finally got my stuff together enough to actually do something about it, for some reason or another, I failed.

At first I talked about it. I talked about starting my weight loss all over again. I talked about how much harder it was and how much longer it was taking and how something just wasn’t clicking this time. I talked about wanting to lose weight for myself, and then to lose weight for my wedding, and… then I stopped talking about it. Because really, I was just saying the same things over and over again. And eventually, not talking about it meant I could pretend not to think about it. Which led me right back to the beginning.

So the next time I tried, things were worse. The number was higher. The stakes were higher.  And I was all the more ashamed. “I’ll just start on my own,” I’d think. “I’ll get back to where I was and then I’ll start blogging about it again, so they don’t know.” As if they didn’t already know.

Except I never got to that point. Because the shame led me to silence and the silence meant I wasn’t reaching out for the support that I required to succeed. That was the cycle.

I should have known better, of course. I should have known that it’s better for me to talk openly about my failings, to share my experience, and to have your support, than to keep it all to myself. I should have known that people will talk and speculate anyway, and that, I mean, hello, folks aren’t blind. I have a visible job and live my life out loud. People aren’t stupid. Hiding photos is one thing, but you can’t prevent people from being able to see you in real life.

But none of it was ever really enough to push me back into the light. Whether it was just because of my supreme laziness or the shame I felt in admitting what was going on to myself — let alone to other people, I just let things continue to worsen. And worsen they did, until I found myself at the exact point where I am now: where I only wear a fraction of my closet because the rest of it either doesn’t fit or doesn’t flatter anymore. Where I delete more pictures than not because I’m so embarrassed by the way that I look. Where I just avoid looking.

And where, when I finally did take that step onto the scale, I found myself looking at a number I’ve never seen before: 254 pounds.

Yep, almost 10 pounds higher than my previous “highest” weight.

The shame hit me pretty hard then, as you can imagine. Enough to make me want to clam up and crawl back into a hole. But I know that’s not the way to move past this. I can’t be silent anymore, and I don’t want to do this alone anymore. There’s nothing I can do about it now except move forward. I can’t turn back time. I can’t take it back. And, as I’ve learned the hard way, I can’t do this in secret. I can’t hide myself away until I’ve lost enough weight that I deem it “okay” to start sharing again. I tried. I failed. It got worse.

So here I am, singing that same old song about being ready to start again. All I can say is that it really does feel different. Or rather, it feels the same — i t feels like the first time, when everything came together in just the right way and just the right time to make me actually want to make a real change.

I admit, I’ve actually started already. Still ashamed by the number I saw, I waited until I could say I’ve already accomplished at least something before I was even brave enough to post this. I know that makes pretty much everything I just said pretty hypocritical, but hey, I’m only human. I’m down 7 pounds since that initial weigh-in, which still means that, at 247 pounds, I’ve still got a long ways to go.

But I’m doing it. No more hiding from the light. No more silence. I know many of you have been down this road with me so many times before that you probably can’t help but roll your eyes. I don’t blame you. Because I know that me saying, “It feels different this time! But also kind of the same!” is probably not as reassuring to you as it is to me. But, rest assured, I am reassured. I want this, I want health, I want to feel good, I want to look good. I want to play longer with my nieces and walk longer with my dogs and I just want to do more. Be more. Live more.

And I have nowhere to go but on.


And now, on a completely unrelated, and much less serious note, since, you know, I can only take so much austerity at a time…

Happy 12th birthday, Harry! <3

Back on the Wagon

For those of you who may have been unaquainted with this blog in its earlier inception, I began my life on the interwebs as a weight loss blogger. My blog was named “Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen!” was completely, utterly, 100% meant to help me lose weight.

I began this blog in August 2010 at 246 pounds, and through diligent(ish) calorie counting, forcing myself to work out, and the support gained from readers just like you, whittled my way down to a glorious 186 pounds by October 2011. Sixty pounds gone in just over a year! Sometimes I don’t really think I’d believe it were it not for the photographic evidence that I used to look like this:

God, I miss those arms.

Anyway. Through the course of the years that followed my initial weight loss, I found out a lot about myself. I found out how to be kinder to myself, how to love myself better, and how to start going after what I want in life, but primarily, I found out that weight loss is really hard for me to maintain. I experienced first-hand the reality of how easy it is to gain it back. And ultimately, I found myself right back where I started, more or less.

It wasn’t a linear process, re-gaining my weight. It’s not like I just suddenly hit 186 pounds and immediately started sliding backwards. It happened in small increments. I maintained my complete sixty pound weight loss for a while… until I didn’t. It happened slowly and completely unintentionally. It seemed so innocuous at first. You know, just a few pounds gained here, a couple pounds lost there. Up and down, back and forth. It all balanced out.

But then… a few more were gained, but not lost. And so it went, until one day, the clothes that I was once so excited to wear didn’t fit anymore. And I found myself untagging myself from more and more photos on Facebook. And I was reaching for cardigans to cover up even when it was 90 degrees out.

The weight, well, it all came back.

So here I am, five years later and pretty much back where I started. Well, when it comes to the number on the scale, that is. Life-wise, I’m in a much, much better place, and I can chalk it up to these three major differences:

First, I am happy. I mean, man, I’m so happy. I’m engaged to a great guy. I have literally THE best job in the entire world. I have two awesome pups, a wonderful family (which has just grown by one more — my sister had her second baby last week!), and generally, life is pretty sweet. Five years ago, I was depressed, in a not-so-great relationship (hindsight really is 20/20), had a boring, unfulfilling job, and felt generally aimless.

Secondly, I really do like myself a lot more. I know, most of that can probably be chalked up to being a 27-year-old versus a 23-year-old (aaaand now I feel old), but I really did go through a nice, big, cliche journey of self-acceptance. Sure, I still have a lot of annoying qualities, but I dunno, I guess I’m growing on myself.

In fact, the whole reason for rebranding this blog came out of this idea of me liking myself better. Because I didn’t want to be known as the girl always trying to lose weight. I just wanted to be me, and being me meant being able to love myself at any weight. And I truly believe I’ve taken a lot of strides in making that happen. But just because I love myself regardless of how I look, doesn’t mean I can’t want to change the way I look, right?

The third difference is one of those love-hate things. Because I love that I can say that my weight gain this time around isn’t the result of binge eating and a toxic relationship with food. It has been very liberating for me to live my life without the shackles of disordered eating. But, I also kind of hate that I don’t have that as an excuse this time. I know that probably sounds super messed up, but it’s just so much less embarassing to say “I got to 246 pounds because I had a binge eating disorder,” than “I got to 242 pounds because donuts are pretty much the perfect food and also I am lazy as fuck.”

I mean, it probably doesn’t help that the aforementioned most perfect job ever has me like

Food and Drank

all the freaking time. But, still, I know, it’s not an excuse.

Anyway, I think you can all pretty clearly see where this is all heading (in case the title wasn’t a dead giveaway, hahaha.) I am actively trying to lose weight… again. I don’t think that the fact that this is happening is a huge surprise to most of you — I made it pretty clear when I rebranded this blog that I probably would get to a point where I wanted to lose weight again. So the question instead is: why now?

And well, I’ll be honest. It’d be pretty easy to chalk me up as another wedding cliche — a bride-to-be trying to lose weight for her big day — because that is definitely a contributing factor. I can’t say that the fact that I’m getting married in five months has absolutely nothing to do with it. I mean, I’m only human! Of course I want to look and feel as beautiful as possible on my wedding day. BUT. That really, honestly, truly is only part of the reason.

I mean, let’s face facts. You can’t say that being at the weight that I am is healthy, because it’s not. I definitely don’t feel healthy. And I can’t say that I look good at this weight, because I don’t think that I do (and believe me, I think very highly of myself, so it must really mean something when I say that, hahahaha.) But while I’ve been at this weight for a while now, just like the first time around, it’s just taken me a while to get to the point where I actively want to do something about it.

So you’ll probably see me throw around the term “wedding diet” a lot in coming months, partially because it’s a convenient way of hashtagging the overabundance of food photos that tend to grace my Instagram, and partially because I am, indeed, trying to lose weight before my wedding. But I’m also going to try to continue losing weight after my wedding, until I get to a weight that I feel good at again (I’m not going to put a number to that just yet). And generally, I do hope that this time I’ll figure out the magic formula that allows me to keep it off for the long term.

The thing is, weight loss wasn’t exactly easy the first time around, but it wasn’t really that hard. I mean, hell, I lost sixty pounds in like, what, sixteen months? That’s really not a lot of time for a pretty significant amount of weight. This time around, however, it has been legitimately difficult. It’s like my body doesn’t want to let go of the weight again. “C’mon,” it’s saying, “we already did this once, that’s all you get!”

So despite going through the same process — counting calories, trying to clean up my diet, increasing my activity — the scale barely seems to budge. I’ve lost about four pounds since restarting my “weight loss journey” (barf at that phrase, but whatevs, it’s apt) but each ounce feels like pulling teeth, especially because I can’t help but compare it to the first time around. I lost something like eleven pounds the FIRST WEEK back then, and here it’s taking me weeks and weeks to see any progress at all.

I really hope that my decision to lose weight again doesn’t undermine what I’ve said in the past about body positivity, body-acceptance, and self-love, because I still truly believe in all of that. I still think that there’s far too much societal pressure for women to conform to one standard of beauty, and I don’t want to propagate the idea that you have to be thin(ner) to be worthy.

But, that being said, if I wanna lose a little weight, I think I should be free to do so, and that’s exactly what I’m attempting to do. Again.

Here we go.

P90: 30 Day Update

So, last we left off in my P90 saga, I had just entered my third week. I am now at the point where I’ve just finished Week 5, which included my 30 day weight and measurement update. I also spoke a little bit about feeling off in my fourth week, which caused me to take two days off from the whole six-days-a-week workout thing. Alas, I’m sort of embarrassed to report I haven’t really recovered from that.

Fortunately (and somewhat shockingly), I have still been working out and following the program, I just haven’t quite managed to get myself back up to doing it every single day. It’s been more like every other day which, granted, is better than nothing at all, but still not what I’m “supposed” to be doing.

Untitled
Somewhat ironically, given the name of this blog, I’m really having a hard time finding that in-between when it comes to working out. It appears to be all or nothing with me. So, once I let myself have a break, it becomes all that much easier to continue allowing myself to do so. And unfortunately, with me hopping on a plane today to head down to Savannah for the next couple of days for work, I’m not sure this issue is going to fix itself quite yet (though I am bringing workout gear so I can hit that hotel gym at least once.)

Thankfully, finally starting a new set of P90 workouts (I’m officially in “Phase B”) is indeed helping with ramping my motivation back up a little. I admit that just doing the exact same workout in the same order with the same jokes over and over did get a little bit taxing, and so far I’m liking Phase B a lot more because there’s no more “intro” talk — Tony knows that you’re already a month into the program, so he jumps right into things a bit more, and I appreciate that.

Regardless of how things have been waning slightly over the past week or so, I was pretty vigilant for those first 30 days, at least, so let’s see where that got me, eh? I took my measurements and some photos on Day 1, and again on Day 30, as recommended. While photo progress appears to have been minimal, as has my actual weight loss (I’m down about 4 pounds, which, on the one hand, hooray! But on the other, womp womp), I have made a bit of progress measurement-wise. So, without further adieu:

Day 1 (1/7/2015)
Chest: 43″
Waist: 38″
Arms (R/L): 15.5″/15″
Thighs (R/L): 30.5″/30″

Day 30 (2/10/2015)
Chest: 42.5″
Waist: 37″
Arms (R/L): 14″/14″
Thighs (R/L): 29″/29″

So, basically an inch off of everywhere, which might not be anything groundbreaking or Biggest Loser worthy, but I’ll take it! I do wish I had taken my hips/butt measurement back on Day 1 (it wasn’t prompted in the little P90 booklet so I kind of forgot about it) but I did measure it on Day 30, so we’ll see what progress is made in that department on Day 60. And hopefully by then I’ll have made enough visible progress that I’m down with sharing some not-sucking-it-in photos, hahahaha.

The workouts in Phase B are definitely more intense than those in Phase A (still with lots of options for modifications, which I am taking advantage of), so maybe my fitness level will start being ramped up even faster, doing more intensive work? Provided I actually get back to DOING it the full six days a week, that is. And outside of P90, since Yelp’s Fit Club is also this month, I’ve got a ton of other cool workouts (yoga, kempo, pilates, bootcamp, and more!) to throw into the mix to keep things interesting — and to keep me on track.

Speaking of which, my first Yelp’s Fit Club fitness class was on Friday!

Northern Virginia Yelpers gathered together for a Zumba-esque dance workout called Sweatvibes! And it KICKED. MY. ASS. In the best way possible, of course! Sweatvibes is an hour of super loud, super pumped up, super high energy dance cardio, and it was a TON of fun. And seriously, what a great workout — I was definitely sore the next day! All that arm-pumping really does you in, man! Thank goodness I’ve already been working out for the past month, otherwise I’m not sure I would have even gotten through the whole hour, haha.

 
Too bad my Fitbit is half-broken, so I only got like half-credit for sweating my butt off. So bitter… because if we know anything, it’s that if you didn’t take a picture/log it/post about it on Facebook, it didn’t happen, right? 😉

Aaaanyway, now it’s off to Savannah for me! I’m probably in the air as you read this, in fact! Here’s hoping I have the strength not to simply bathe in buckets of sweet tea and butter for the next two days, hehe. And I’ll see you on the flipside!