Weight control/fitness rut
April 22, 2006 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Struggling with a weight control/fitness rut (and more).

Beginning in May 2004, I was the poster girl for Weight Watchers and lost 90 pounds. I did this in just over one year, helped along by the strong fitness program I began.

I had awesome willpower and started running, which I still do. I have upped my “amount I can run before I keel over” from 3 miles to 6. I try to weight train at least twice a week.

Once I reached my goal weight, I maintained it (pretty easily) for 6 weeks to qualify for WW “Lifetime” status. I was everyone’s go-to person for fitness and weight loss tips. I am 5’5 and was a size 8 at 155 lbs.

Six months later, I was up 15 pounds. Currently I am close to 20 pounds over. Because of my body type (muscular legs, overall even distribution of weight) it really doesn’t look like I’m that different. But I can tell- that the clothes I wore last year are too small.

What worked before isn’t working anymore, so I have been struggling with the motivation to keep working out. I know myself and if I stop exercising, I will balloon faster than Janet Jackson. I feel like a failure; aimless and like I no longer know what I need to do to stay fit.

I was always fat and I don’t want to be fat. I just turned 40. I hate that every day becomes a “me against food” battle. I want food to simply be food, not my uber-adversary.

I actually consulted with 2 different plastic surgeons but the tummy tuck and lipo I want cost way too much. Instead I took (much less) money and joined a personal trainer program to get a Harvey Walden-type dude to scream me back into shape. We meet next week.

My days usually go well and then I get home and deprivation sets in. I binge and yes, purge. I have been a “functioning bulimic” for the past 8 months. I thought I’d left that behavior behind in my past but it’s back. NO one in my family knows. I have it down to a science. I don’t do it every day but too often for my happiness.

I hope the trainer program shakes me out of my rut. There are days when I wonder why it’s worth it. Does anyone have any help for me in shaking the food obsession and breaking free of the cycle?

First post BTW, hello to all you awesome MeFites.
posted by I_Love_Bananas to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
ILB, congratulations on being brave enough to ask this question.

I'm far less concerned about how you're going to lose the weight and keep motivated (the trainer will definitely help, and you're staying on your exercise program, so those are good proactive moves), and far more concerned about the reemergence of binging/purging behaviors. You know as well as anyone that that's not a good sign and could become a more serious problem if you don't address it.

I'm thinking that, after all this success with your fitness program, something must have triggered you to revert to this old, perhaps more comforting, but ultimately destructive pattern of behavior. Perhaps it was something as simple as the transition to a new body and way of being seen by the world; that can be weird, especially with a very fast weight loss such as yours. Sometimes the expectations that "Everything will be perfect when I lose this weight" are unrealistic; then when we get to the goal weight and everything isn't perfect, and is in fact imperfect in weird ways that we have absolutely no experience dealing with, there is some adjustment that needs to take place.

There might also have been underlying things in your personality that were making you unhappy, and now that weight is no longer the main the focus of your self-improvement efforts, those other things show up much more clearly. Perhaps on some level you might wish to choose to have a weight problem, and point to that as the source of any self-dissatisfaction, rather than move on to working on the other things standing in the way of your contentment and happiness with yourself.

Or perhaps there's been some recent trigger event or stressor. It can be pretty easy to maintain lifestyle and behavior changes when things are going swimmingly. But then when something happens - job or relationship stress, a move, an illness - you don't know what tools to use to manage the stress, so you go back to those old ones that used to work.

But I am going to stop playing two-bit psychologist right now, because I'm out of my depth. I have some experience with weight loss and gain, so I know it causes weird changes in self-perception, and sometimes the things I've mentioned happen.

Keep up your great routine. I think it's awesome that you have established it, and there is probably no question that you enjoy working out and how it makes you feel. It's also very clear that you are putting the brakes on; by coming and posting here, you're catching yourself in a backslide, recognizing reality, and addressing the problem. These are all just excellent signs that you will get this solved. I recommed (guess what?) going to talk to a counselor/therapist, because that may help you figure out what's behind your reversion to old behaviors. I think it would be much more successful than trying to solve it alone, and anything you hear from us here will just be a starting point for you in working it out. This really isn't about calories in/calories out, workouts, or fitness. You understand all that. What you might want help in doing is becoming comfortable with who you are now, consolidating your gains, and not letting any fears or disappointments drive you back into a behavior which negatively impacts your life.
posted by Miko at 9:24 AM on April 22, 2006

No matter how well you're functioning, it sounds like you've fallen into eating disordered patterns. A clinical psychologist I used to see who specializes in eating disorders often reminded me "I've never known anyone to get over this on their own," and by that she meant without therapy and/or medication.

Outside of the psych field, what helped me was getting involved in physical activities that were a lot of fun and required a lot of strength (specifically circus arts like trapeze and acrobatics, but there are lots of options). Those things made me proud of my body for what it could do, so I didn't focus so much on how it looked or on making it thinner. Instead my focus totally shifted to being able to do new things with my body (and surprise, weight came off anyway). Also it meant that I had to make sure I was eating well enough and eating enough to build muscle, which helped even out my eating habits a lot. YMMV but I really think getting involved in the right FUN physical activity can make a huge difference.
posted by nevers at 10:26 AM on April 22, 2006

Eating issues aside, because I am totally not qualified to address them, try training for something like a 5K (or 10K) race or a sprint triathlon or a noncompetitive bike ride accross your state. Staying motivated with the same workout all the time is hard. Having a goal other than just staying in shape or maintaining weight is good motivation. (I think a trainer will totally help, too.)
posted by Airhen at 11:26 AM on April 22, 2006

Whew. I am in the midst of a big weight loss initiative myself, and I'm now finally having more success with it than I've had in any of my other attempts - so far I've lost about 25 lbs and have 35-40 more to go. But I'm worried about what I'll do when I get there - I'm very scared of getting there and gaining it back or losing the great routines that I've gotten myself into that are paying off so well.

I can't advise you too well, because you've already done so much better than I have so far. I can say that I had been in therapy for a while, and my therapist constantly told me that the weight loss I was always trying and failing at over and over again would only happen for me when I dealt with all of my other "issues" and finally felt happy and in control of my life. I never "got it" - but I feel like I finally do. I made some major changes in my life by addressing things that were really hard on me (wanting to move out of the city I grew up in; taking control of my relationship with my father) and it finally all makes sense for me.

I wonder if there's something there that you can start addressing? Can you take on a life improvement task or project that's NOT weight loss? Are you currently in therapy or interested in trying it out?

Also - I've been using sparkpeople.com and it's a really helpful and useful site, despite the forums full of smilies and people with pictures of Garfield in their profile. Maybe a different routine other than WW will breathe some new life into your attempts.

Good luck to you!
posted by pazazygeek at 11:33 AM on April 22, 2006

It doesn't sound to me like you have an exercise problem as much as an eating problem. Maybe a counselor would be a better choice than a trainer? If you dont want to do that there might be a few things you can do to break the cycle, don't keep any food in the house so you can't binge at night, turn to snacking on carrots and celery, go to bed two hours earlier etc.

And be careful you don't hurt yourself stepping up the exercise too drastically, it sounds to me like you're in great shape already.
posted by fshgrl at 1:22 PM on April 22, 2006

I second Airhen. Sign up for a marathon or other physical event. Pay the money up front so you don't bale out.

I'll also add that you may need to jack up the daily agenda so that you're so busy you haven't the time to obsess and indulge over food. Maybe in time, when other hobbies, interests and responsibilities jostle to the forefront, food won't seem like such a priority. You'll eat merely for fuel requirements instead of self-medication and entertainment.

Most of all, stay positive Bananas!
posted by rinkjustice at 2:49 PM on April 22, 2006

The thing that struck me in your post was that you felt deprived, and I don't think you can go on with this if you feel deprived. I know the weight watchers system incorporates points, and the only thing I can think of that might help you is to try to spread them out over the day more so that you're not left feeling hungry or deprived. I'm on a slightly different diet than the Weight Watchers system, but basically the eating breakdown goes like this: breakfast; 10am snack; lunch; 3pm snack; dinner; 8pm snack. Maybe if you had the 8pm healthy snack to look forward to, it would help you? I've got a whole list of foods that I'm allowed to pair for snacks -- if you want, I could email them to you.

Good luck with the personal trainer.
posted by Medieval Maven at 3:07 PM on April 22, 2006

Have you checked your bodyfat percentage? You say you're gaining weight and getting bigger, but you also said you started weight training and you've been running regularly. You may not be getting fat at all. If your jeans are tighter in the thighs and not the waist, that could be from running. If you've gained 15 pounds of muscle, that's not a problem. If you're exercising seriously, you should focus more on your body composition than actual weight. My apologies in advance if you think this is non-responsive ... it doesn't directly address your question. Good luck to you.
posted by zanni at 4:08 AM on April 23, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you to all who posted... much food for thought (no pun intended).

Zanni, I wondered about that too but I always felt the "oh, yeah, but it's all muscle and muscle weighs more than fat" is a cop-out so I haven't really investigated it.

Part of this new trainer program is a full-on body fat analysis etc. so maybe that will help me get a grip on this better.

Just posting about it makes it seem less insurmountable. Thanks again to everyone.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:04 AM on April 23, 2006

Definitely do the body fat monitoring thing. It's likely you've built muscle from running and weight training, but not likely that you've built 15 pounds of muscle.
posted by Miko at 9:40 AM on April 23, 2006

Do the foods you binge and purge contain a great deal of sugar or starches? You might consider adopting a low carb diet.
posted by macinchik at 11:10 AM on April 24, 2006

As a member of WW myself - have you gone back and spoken to your leader? They may be able to advise...
posted by SpacemanRed at 1:18 AM on April 26, 2006

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