40 pounds in 15 months! I did it! Sure, yeah, my goal was 45, but I aimed a bit high on purpose so that even if I didn’t reach it within my timeframe, I’d still have made a significant change. And I have.

Before | During | After
Before | During | After

I miss those black sandals. And as for the tres chic bandana, it was cleaning day, and I was growing out my bangs. And as soon as I brought that pink dress home, the Empress has been asking for us to have a Mommy-daughter princess dress date, so we did that yesterday. I would like to point out that not only is it a full — and pleated! — skirt, but it’s also very heavily textured, all elements I used to think of as off-limits because they just didn’t work on me.

I wasn’t, to begin with, all that fat. And I still don’t look all that skinny. I still fold and jiggle some, and need megaduty running bras. My hip bones aren’t visible; my thighs still touch. I still wear a large in a lot of things. But I feel good about my body for the first time — ever. Not perfect, but good. I think it’s rather telling that in the first two photos, which I took for profile/progress images for MyFitnessPal, I was literally in the closet with the door shut (the mirror’s on the inside of the door, but still). And for the “after” photo, I not only came outside, I even handed the camera to someone else. It’s a strange feeling asking someone to take my picture, when I’ve spent most of my adult life actively avoiding being photographed.

What worked:

  • Calorie tracking. I slacked off once I learned my normal meals’ calorie content, but when my progress stalled, I started up logging my food again, and it worked every time. How many things can you say that about?
  • Soylent. It’s not as glamorous as, say, pan-seared salmon with arugula or whatever, but it’s a tasty 400 calorie meal every time. And most important, it’s quicker, easier, and (sometimes) cheaper than drive-thru.
  • Yoga. 30 minutes, 3-4 mornings a week. Sometimes 40-45 minutes … but usually not. I YouTubed “strength yoga,” collected the ones that looked interesting into playlists organized by length, and picked one from the list each morning. I saved the ones I liked in a “Yoga — Favorites” list.
  • Timeframe, not pound/size goals. Instead of having an indefinite future of asceticism stretching out before me until I lost X pounds or could fit into X size, I gave myself a deadline. I’ll do these things for this long, I decided, and then I’ll accept the progress that results. Even if it’s not the specific pounds-lost target I’d had in mind.
  • Be hungry. Yeah, sometimes, you’re just hungry. Out of calories for the day, saving up for a big dinner, etc.; it sucks. A lot. This is why having a deadline was so important — it helped to remember hey, it’s only until mid-March; I can hang in there until then. Probably.
  • Be mindful about “free appetizers.” Sometimes I’d actually sit on my hands at restaurants until my food arrived, to keep from eating my weight in chips, salsa, and queso, or those wonderful steakhouse rolls. It’s so hard not to snack on them before your meal, and they turn a 500-600 calorie meal into an 900-1000+ one really quickly. (I invariably give up at Italian places, and go ahead and enjoy the bread and oil; it’s my favorite thing there.)
  • Re-read my favorite books. Yes, it is relevant. I’ve read that revisiting “familiar fictional worlds” can help bolster or replenish willpower, and I can use all the (free) help I can get in that regard. So the last few months, when it was harder to stay motivated, I re-read a few of my favorites and left my ‘to-read’ shelf (… shelves) alone for a while.

What didn’t work:

  • Breakfast. When I ate a full breakfast, I stayed hungry all day. When I skipped breakfast, or had just, oh, a grapefruit or an apple, it was easier to have a small lunch, minimal or no snack, and a lower-calorie dinner.
  • Adjusting calorie allowances with workouts. I’d overestimate the number of calories my workout burned, eat that much more, and still be hungry. So I’d eat even more. Then I wouldn’t lose any weight, and I’d be sad. So — learning! — I stopped. I also looked for workouts that didn’t make me quite as ravenous. Now that I’m focusing on maintenance, I hope to start stepping up the intensity of my workouts — I’ll [try to] keep you updated on how that goes.
  • Totalitarian prohibitions. “Diets” of absolutism just piss me off. The &!%# you mean, no bread? No dessert, no alcohol? Kiss my shrinking ass. I’ll have a scotch or (and) a slice of cheesecake if I want, thankyouverymuch. If I need to eat salad* with no cheese** and no croutons*** for the next two meals to rebalance, then that’s exactly what I’ll do.
  • “Motivational” images. Delete the thinspiration pinboard altogether — stop looking at fashion mags, sighing, ‘ah, once I’m thin’ — no. Put down the Pin It button and step away from your monitor for a while. Forgo magazines and Pinterest, fashion Tumblrs, etc. altogether if you need to. I did. Your body’s not shaped for clothes or cameras — it’s shaped for staying alive. (Aaaaaaand now that’s going to be stuck in my head all day.) It’s also conveniently shaped for experiencing the world! Look around; drink it in. Look, especially, at what beautiful things humans like us have made when they weren’t spending every waking moment thinking about how they looked. Stunning architecture. Exquisite gardens. Shiny Ferraris. Whatever. I think we should look out from our bodies a lot more than we look at them.

What happened:

  • 40 pounds lost (at least, since I didn’t weigh myself until I was already down a size or so).
  • Size 16 to size 8/10 (though being between sizes still sucks, unfortunately, in a very first-world-problems sort of way).
  • Strength, stamina, balance, and flexibility have improved a whole lot (but I haven’t taken any objective measurements of them, either before or after, so I can’t say precisely how much).
  • Still parenthetically qualifying my statements (though I haven’t — obviously — tried too hard to break myself of that).

What now:

  • Look at more shiny Ferraris, obviously.
  • Focus more on performance — how many pushups/situps/lunges can I do now? How far, how fast can I run and bike? Let’s inch those upwards, a little at a time.
  • Accept that my body will keep changing from now on, responding both to my actions and also to things I cannot begin to understand, let alone control.
  • Read new books!

*I actually really like salad. But I like, you know, snobby salads. Multicolored arrangements of things like dried figs, zucchini ribbons, toasted capers, and so forth.

**Why do restaurants put gummy shredded cheese on every salad these days, by the way? I mean, don’t get me wrong, cheese is lovely — good cheese is lovely — but seriously? Shredded american to fancy up a limp iceberg salad? I don’t think so.

***All croutons are not created equal, either. Naturally. Good ones add a beautiful and delicious layer of texture to a salad; sub-par ones just make them more caloric.




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